welcome video music photo profiles sites reviews calendar















Reviewer: Danger Kid

Category: Book

Subject: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. By Alexander McCall Smith

This is a weak book about a fat African detective who also happens to be a lady. So what? There have been loads of lady detectives before, not least Miss Marple who is miles better at solving crimes.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency follows middle-aged smug lady detective Precious Ramotswe through several boring anti-men cases before she finally learning to forgive both herself and all mankind and gets married. In the early chapters Mme. Ramotswe's cases are interesting, like a little orderve before the main storyline kicks in. However, this never quite happens and the book becomes a dull catalogue of trivial mysteries that the fat detective solves in exactly the same way each time. There is a deeper theme here, wherein Ramotswe must get over the guilt and shame of an abusive husband and the baby she lost as a teenager. Only by saving the life of a young boy can she overcome her grief for the baby, her insecurities about men and finally achieve enough on her own to prove to herself (and her dead father) that she can marry again and not feel like a slave. Sadly, this theme is rather obvious attempt to give some dimension to the main character, and while it provides her motivation it fails endear her to the reader.

The book is full of feminist overtones, which might have been interesting in the 1960's but sound rather tired today. I don't know maybe the sexual politics in Botswana are 50 years out of date but I don't want to be reminded how rubbish men are every five pages.

Alexander McCall Smith is a good writer and his book is full of gentle humour, however some jokes are very contrived - witness the rubbish joke about constipation on page 154 - there is no need for this joke and I am sure that McCall Smith thought of it ages ago, thought it was funny and then deliberately contrived a situation in the book where he could use it. Go into your local Whsmiths and turn to page 154 and look at this disgustingly lazy piece of writing for free. It is a shame because with this one ice-lolly stick gag he undoes all the good work he has done previously in the book. Take a look at his photo on the back of the novel - you can see him laughing at what he thinks is his superior wit.

Unfortunately the protagonist is not likable enough and the plot not exciting enough to keep the reader interested. I found Mme. Ramotswe to be sexist, annoying and self satisfied. I thought the plot was boring, predictable and far too placid. However, this has proved to be a very popular book with about one million other people so you might like to buy it, if only to be able to read the rubbish joke on page 154 at your leisure.

Mark Out Of Seven: Three

back to articles menu

have your say at the rusta forum