Dan Sandman

40: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

In Books, Crime, Fiction on 04/10/2013 at 12:00 pm

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall SmithWhat a wonderful premise Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana series of books has: create a warm hearted heroin who wants to set up a private detective agency with her inheritance money. Precious Ramotswe is Botwana’s finest – and only – female private detective. She uses her erudite people skills to investigate cases that require the kind of discretion not available from the police service. Her methods often involve telling lies to uncover a crime. Although she believes in making up false stories to reveal information, her actions are always underpinned by a strong moral centre.

“Lies are quite all right if you are lying for a good cause.” (pg.185)

And so the good-natured Mma Ramotswe follows people in her little white van sleuthing. She is a strong and independent woman with an entrepreneurial spirit; a feminist of sorts living in a traditionally patriarchal society. Troubled by a bad experience involving her ex-husband, she champions the causes of womankind against traditionalism.

For example, when Precious meets two wealthy and powerful men especially threatened by her modern views, she anticipates their prejudice and outmanoeuvres them to her advantage. Firstly, Mr. Patel is obsessed with the idea that his daughter might be seeing a boy not vetted and approved in the tradition of arranged marriages. He stands for the oppressive traditions of a male dominated system of behaviour. Through her charm and investigative skills, Mma Remotswe is able to convince Mr. Patel to allow his daughter to live more freely. Secondly, Mr. Charlie Gotso, BA is endangered by the discovery of some very dodgy Muti (traditional Southern African medicine) involving the bones of a dead child. He is on the side of those who believe that murder can be justified in the name of superstitious traditional values. By pretending to support Mr. Gotso’s beliefs, once again the courageous Precious Remotwe is able to save the day.

Our heroin is a savvy private eye who works according to her own code of justice, a loveable character who falls on the right side of good and bad, and a friendly person who knows the importance of a tea and sympathy. Fearless and super cool, she has the kind of magnetic personality that is bound to produce laughter and smiles. All the way through this excellent set of detective stories, I couldn’t help effortlessly turning the pages.

A very good read indeed.

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