Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1998)
- Paul Dale
- 1 January 2005
100 Best Scottish Books of All Time
Some years ago Mma 'Precious' Ramotswe decided to use her inheritance from her beloved father to open a detective agency in Botswana. Having been met with scepticism by her bank manager ('Can women be detectives?'), she put together her assets (a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, an old typewriter, a teapot and three teacups), hired herself a brainy assistant, Mma Makutsi, and moved into an office shack on land owned by her mechanic gentleman friend Mr JLB Matekoni. And so it was that we were welcomed into the enjoyable world of the Kalahari's Miss Marple.
Writer, academic and bon viveur, Alexander McCall Smith was in fact born in Zimbabwe (called Southern Rhodesia at the time) and educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. Currently a Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, he still finds time to work on this superb (and extremely lucrative) series of crime books (the other books in the series include Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls and The Kalahari Typing School for Men).
But it was this first book in the series that put McCall Smith on the map, with its fragrant, delicate whiff of redbush tea and malice from the bush. And now he finds himself nearly as sought after for celebrity endorsement in Scotland as Ian Rankin. The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series has been enthusiastically received throughout the world, and foreign language editions have appeared in numerous countries.
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