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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency | [Alexander McCall Smith]

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Mma "Precious" Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. At first, cases are hard to come by. But eventually, troubled people come to Precious with a variety of concerns. Potentially philandering husbands, seemingly schizophrenic doctors, and a missing boy who may have been killed by witch doctors all compel Precious to roam about in her tiny van, searching for clues.
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Publisher's Summary

This remarkably fresh and charming best seller took the world by storm upon its publication. It has since earned two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the "International Books of the Year and the Millennium" by the Times Literary Supplement.

Mma "Precious" Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. At first, cases are hard to come by. But eventually, troubled people come to Precious with a variety of concerns. Potentially philandering husbands, seemingly schizophrenic doctors, and a missing boy who may have been killed by witch doctors all compel Precious to roam about in her tiny van, searching for clues.

Chosen as a Top Ten Mystery by the Organization of Independent Booksellers, U.S.A., The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is that rare novel that imparts a sage wisdom while inspiring hearty laughter and lasting smiles.

Listen to the other titles in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

©1998 Alexander McCall Smith; (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Paperback, 2003
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award Winner, Best First Novel by an American Author, 1998

"One of the most entrancing literary treats of many a year...A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness." (Wall Street Journal)
"An artful, pleasing novel...General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers." (Publishers Weekly)
"Smart and sassy...Precious' progress is charted in passages that have the power to amuse or shock or touch the heart, sometimes all at once." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (2920 )
5 star
 (1187)
4 star
 (839)
3 star
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2 star
 (221)
1 star
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Overall
4.0 (1417 )
5 star
 (602)
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3 star
 (257)
2 star
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1 star
 (69)
Story
4.2 (1411 )
5 star
 (780)
4 star
 (357)
3 star
 (166)
2 star
 (54)
1 star
 (54)
Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-05-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    55
    22
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Empowering & Intelligent"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a great story of empowerment and pain. Of right and wrong, and of honesty. I believe I was thrown off at first because the cover implies a super poor, dirt floor straw house, but I do not believe that to be the case in reality. They talk about luxury, cars, technology, etc. Once I realized I had misinterpreted the scenario, I was able to fully immerse myself into the book and appreciate the story line.

    I supposed you could compare the main character to Sherlock Holmes or the author to Agatha Christie (both of which I absolutely love) in the fact that a lot of common sense, perception, and deductive reasoning solves these cases. However, I feel there was a lot of unique problem solving ideas brought to the table. I enjoyed how she wasn't always successful and sometimes things blew up in her face.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 01-13-14
    Amazon Customer TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 01-13-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    193
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    130
    130
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    22
    21
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good stories, but not very cohesive"

    I enjoyed this read, and I will probably read more by Alexander McCall Smith. There is no doubt that the author has a real talent for making you feel as though you were sitting in the middle of Africa. The book was descriptive without getting too bogged down in detail, and it moved along well enough.

    Perhaps I'm just too used to reading detective stories that involve one mystery or, at least, one overriding mystery. I found this book somewhat choppy in its movement from one case to another; I would have preferred a story that developed one intrigue, involved more character development, and would have put me on the edge of my seat. I never had that "edge of my seat" experience with this book.

    I found the narrator, Lisette Lecat, to be perfect at 2x speed. I even used the 3x speed toward the end of the book as her narration is so slow that she would have put me to sleep otherwise. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed her intonation, and even found her accent to be improved at double speed. It's just that more speed was necessary to enjoy her reading.

    Overall, this is an interesting book. I was pleased to find several references of the Christian perspective on various matters scattered throughout the novel, which enhanced my ability to relate to the characters. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys short story mysteries, as that is how this book was presented. I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about Africa because, as I stated before, Alexander McCall Smith will make you feel as though you were there.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darline 01-02-14
    Darline 01-02-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "not my kind of read"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    not sure it is not my kind of read


    What was most disappointing about Alexander McCall Smith’s story?

    to slow


    Would you be willing to try another one of Lisette Lecat’s performances?

    no


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    sadness


    Any additional comments?

    might be a good read for some just not interested

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-08-13
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-08-13 Member Since 2013

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    212
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    295
    294
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    39
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Delightfully, Unexpectedly More than a Private Eye"

    So much more than a detective story, this audio book spans the geography and history of Africa. It is a captivating and breathtaking glimpse into a culture and way of life that I have never even imagined. The simple beauty described makes me want to go there . . . then the crime and terrible injustices done to women especially, makes me literally sick to my stomach. The ingenious ways that Mma "Precious" Ramotswe thinks of to solve her cases are funny and just plain clever. I can already tell that I am going to have to continue with this series!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Hayes Salmon, Idaho 12-04-13
    Larry Hayes Salmon, Idaho 12-04-13

    The only thing you get for free, is nothing.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    0
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    101
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Ladies Detective..."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Just not my kind of writing


    What could Alexander McCall Smith have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Im sure lots of people liked the book I wanted it to go someplace and it didn't for me


    How could the performance have been better?

    not sure


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew HANOVER, PA, United States 11-04-13
    Matthew HANOVER, PA, United States 11-04-13 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bumbling Feminist Tripe"
    What disappointed you about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

    Admittedly I didn't make it far into this book. It seemed to me that the author must be a very stuffy, posturing type for he had difficulty portraying a carefree African without making them simplistic and caricatures of a truly fully developed character. He labors at the simplest of tasks such as describing a beautiful African landscape. He insists on labeling his characters with Aliases in front of their proper names just so he can make sure you understand what type of character he intends you to see. In fact, most of the early chapters he bludgeons you with what he wants you to see in the characters and scene as if the reader is incapable of understanding the story at all.

    Furthermore, the story is rife with liberal feminism which shouldn't be surprising given the title but I was hopeful the usual, men are bumbling abusive idiots and women are insightful, gorgeous creatures diatribe would not be too thick. I was disgusted within the first 2 chapters and found the $3 I spent on the book to be an entire waste of $2.99.

    The narrator has a horrible way of overemphasizing the main character's name which ads to the pain of listening to this book. STAY CLEAR of it.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Alexander McCall Smith again?

    Definitely NOT


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Overemphasis of the main character's name.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

    Everything after "welcome to audible"


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 07-09-13
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 07-09-13 Member Since 2014

    Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    63
    ratings
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    115
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    5
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Not a Cozy Mystery, Some Spousal Abuse"
    Any additional comments?

    I had read some reviews before I listened to this and I was expecting a "cozy mystery" despite the fact that my mind associates that genre more with snowy Vermont than with Africa. Comparing the reviews to what I read left me with this, "Is it ME?" feeling. I agree with the reviewers that the white male author seems to do a good job writing from the perspective of a black African woman (to the extent that I can tell anyway). I suppose it eventually does settle into something of a cozy type of mystery, but there were some things that prevented it from qualifying for me. The worst thing was that this woman Precious Ramotswe, is presented to us all along as a smart, educated woman, loved and respected by her father, and yet she still falls into the standard abusive relationship. I was bothered by the (brief) scenes of her husband's mistreatment of her, including sexual violence. After that things settle in, but I can't help but think those scenes cannot have been in a "cozy mystery". That aside I suppose there is something compelling about this book and I was interested in the depictions of African life. I was fascinated by the lack of possessions. The narrator was very good, I thought, despite the fact that I am no judge of a Botswanan accent. Also it is sometimes a bit annoying Mme Ramotswe manages to solve some mysteries that her technique probably really wouldn't have been sufficient to solve. Not that she has much technique, being in Africa and deprived of a lot of the tools of the P.I. trade. Overall, I found it interesting enough to get through and perhaps may one day read another one, but am in no rush.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jill Littleton, CO, United States 07-06-13
    jill Littleton, CO, United States 07-06-13 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    70
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent performance"

    I am totally enchanted with this series. I am not sure I would enjoy reading the books, however, the Lisette Lecat brings the characters to life in her performance making the story simply wonderful. I am working my way through the series, and will be sad when I reach the end.....

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    suzanne New York, NY, United States 05-20-13
    suzanne New York, NY, United States 05-20-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    95
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    284
    75
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    6
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Baffled by the great reviews"

    I read so many great reviews, but this did not keep my interest. I did not like the story or characters.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert J. Goodsell Ann Arbor, MI United States 04-15-13
    Robert J. Goodsell Ann Arbor, MI United States 04-15-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Too short!"
    What did you love best about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

    Unlike many detective novels, the cases here seem very real. Rather than uncovering huge organized crime syndicates and such, our #1 lady detective deals with a series of interesting yet mostly simple cases, relying on her knowledge of human nature instead of forensics. It is charming and funny, and a great listen while driving.

    Bad news--it was too short. Good news--it's the first of a series!


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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