The Barnes & Noble Review
The pantheon of brilliant detectives with great names -- Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Sam Spade -- has a new member: Precious Ramotswe. As Botswana’s only female private investigator, Precious finds herself in some exotic situations -- flirting with wayward husbands in the Go Go Handsome Man’s Bar one minute, confronting witch doctors about missing boys the next. But cases and solutions here are only half the fun. Author Alexander McCall Smith, the leading authority on Botswana’s constitutional law, writes with such beautiful simplicity, he may actually give lawyers a good name. His slice of Africa is vividly rendered with an appropriately dry wit and an almost Dickensian array of characters, from the upstanding mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni to Precious’s humble assistant, Mna Makutsi, to an assortment of cocky con men and frauds. Precious, meanwhile, is one of the most original private detectives ever put to page: a bright, fallible woman who gets duped romantically and on the job but bursts with compassion for everything in her path -- especially Africa. Fans of transportive, literary mysteries have a reason to ululate. Loudly. Seth Kaufman
The African-born author of more than 50 books, from children's stories (The Perfect Hamburger) to scholarly works (Forensic Aspects of Sleep), turns his talents to detection in this artful, pleasing novel about Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe, Botswana's one and only lady private detective. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch. Mma Ramotswe's cases come slowly and hesitantly at first: women who suspect their husbands are cheating on them; a father worried that his daughter is sneaking off to see a boy; a missing child who may have been killed by witchdoctors to make medicine; a doctor who sometimes seems highly competent and sometimes seems to know almost nothing about medicine. The desultory pace is fine, since she has only a detective manual, the frequently cited example of Agatha Christie and her instincts to guide her. Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly. General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers. (Aug. 27) FYI: Anchor is simultaneously issuing two other titles in this series, Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls.
Botswana's only female detective, Precious Ramotswe-whose investigation of whether the father who's incontinently turned up on the doorstep of Happy Bapetsi, who's been getting along fine without him, is really her father edges her toward considerably darker waters-isn't just ready to confront everything from theft to kidnapping to murder: she's ready for prime time. The first American publication of this 1999 debut has been preceded by two special Booker citations and two sequels, Tears of the Giraffe (2000) and Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001), both forthcoming in the series. Film rights to Jo'burg Filmed Entertainment
“The Miss Marple of Botswana.” The New York Times Book Review
“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
“The author’s prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision. His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswana landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven’t read anything with such alloyed pleasure for a long time.” Anthony Daniels, The Sunday Telegraph