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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

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The title of this book did not woo me. I thought, “Great. Just what I need. More chick lit.” But I was so wrong. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is not shallow Prada-wearing mystery drivel at all. This is an African mystery with all the richness that connotes, and with the most unlikely heroine – a large, round, smart, divorced Botswanan woman who is not intimidated by witch doctors, snakes, abusive husbands, even the African heat.

Her name is Precious Ramotswe and she is a rare and wonderful character. She thinks out loud in the novel, “I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.” The language of this book is so tactile, like the thick scent of earth in the African air. The book reminded me of a modern Cry, the Beloved Country, with a little Agatha Christie thrown in for good measure. It has the rich pride in Africa that is so foreign to the American reader. The number one lady detective “does not want Africa to change. She did not want her people to become like everybody else, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be an African, or worse still, ashamed of Africa.”

Author Alexander McCall Smith is the author of more than 50 books, from children's stories to scholarly works, to the ladies’ detective series in which this is the fourth offering. I may just go back and read the first three – I liked Precious Ramotswe that much. She’s the kind of character I want to hug, to sit at the knee of, to learn from, to cry with. A thumb’s up for the small paperback bestseller, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I’m Amanda Dickson.

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