The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

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For the first book in the series, see The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (novel). For the television film and series, see The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (TV series).
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime fiction
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
eBook

This article discusses the series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, which began with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Seventeen novels have been published in the series from 1998 to 2016.

Mma Precious Ramotswe is the main character in a series including 17 novels from 1998 to 2016. The country of Botswana is in a sense a character as well, as it is a crucial aspect of how the stories flow. Mma Ramotswe starts up her detective agency when she is 34 years old, using the inheritance from her father to move to the capital city Gaborone to buy a house for herself and find an office for her new business. She feels a detective needs to know about people more than anything, to solve problems for them. The readership was at first small, then gained abruptly in popularity in the US and in England, beyond the author's home in Scotland. In 2004, sales in English exceeded five million, and the series has been translated to other languages.

The episodic novels are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries. Each book in the series follows from the previous book.

The novels have been adapted for radio by the author and for television.

Synopsis of series[edit]

Mma Precious Ramotswe is the main character in a series including 17 novels from 1998 to 2016. The country of Botswana is in a sense a character as well, as it is a crucial aspect of how the stories flow and the problems which face her clients. Mma Ramotswe starts up her detective agency when she is 34 years old, using the inheritance from her father to move to the capital city Gaborone to buy a house for herself and find an office for her new business. She feels a detective needs to know about people more than anything, to solve problems for them. Her story is told in the first novel from birth to opening the detective agency in the first novel.

Mma Ramotswe is a Motswana woman who is the protagonist in the series and the main detective. Mma is a Setswana term of respect for a woman; the equivalent term for a man is Rra.

Mma Precious Ramotswe solves cases for wives whose husbands have gone missing, for a school teacher whose son has disappeared by finding the kidnappers, for a wealthy father whose 16-year-old daughter is frustrating him by going out on her own. She helps a man atone for sins of his youth by finding the people he hurt decades earlier. She uncovers a scheme by twin brothers to use one medical degree and certificate between the two of them. She solves a case for herself, when she thinks she must seek a divorce from her first husband, but learns differently when she seeks out his mother. Her personal life has a main sorrow, that her only child lived just a few days, as the child's father beat her during the pregnancy, a story told in retrospect. This led her to decide never to marry again after he left her. Her joy is her engagement and eventual marriage to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, who has taken on foster care of a sister and brother from the orphan farm. The cases are set in the cities of Botswana, mainly on the edge of the Kalahari desert, rather than in the desert. There are occasional forays into neighboring nations.

After her first few cases, she purchases a book by Clovis Andersen on detection, The Principles of Private Detection, and then quotes from it throughout the novels when a guide is needed for deciding next steps.

The episodic novels[citation needed] are as much about the adventures and foibles of different characters as they are about solving mysteries. Each novel in the series follows on from the previous one as to setting and plot.

Publication history[edit]

The readership was at first small, then gained abruptly in popularity in the US and in England, beyond the author's home in Scotland. The initial books were published in Scotland.

Per Kirkus Reviews, the early novels in this series had their American publication later than in the UK, which published the first in 1998, the second in 2000, and the third, Morality for Beautiful Girls, in 2001. The first three novels appeared in 2002 in the USA. In their review of the first novel in the series, Kirkus Reviews notes that "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."[1][2]

In an item from the Wisconsin Public Radio program, To the Best of Our Knowledge, the first novel "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit [in the UK], receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list." The UK success did not speed publishers to release it in the USA. "American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews."[3]

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies was the first of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels to be printed in hardback, with a very large initial print run of 101,000 copies to meet the anticipated demand, as sales in English of the series to date, in 2004, exceeded five million.[4]

In 2004, the year of the sixth novel's publication, Alexander McCall Smith won the Author of the Year award at the British Book Awards [5] and the Crime Writers Association Dagger in the Library award,[6] both for the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Reception[edit]

The novels have been reviewed in English and in other languages.[7]

Characters in the series[edit]

Main[edit]

  • Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first female private investigator in Botswana. 'Traditionally built' heroine and protagonist of the series.
  • Mma Grace Makutsi, the agency's only employee, first as secretary, then as assistant detective, and then associate detective .
  • Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, mechanic and proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mma Ramotswe's suitor and eventual husband. He is always referred to in these novels by this very formal title.

Secondary[edit]

  • Obed Ramotswe, father of Precious, known to her as the Daddy. He worked in the mines in his younger days, then came home to raise his daughter and continue enlarging his herd of cattle. He was known for his keen eye for the best cattle, and bred some of his own. He tells his own story in the first novel, and is mentioned often by Mma Ramotswe throughout the series.
  • Charlie, the older of the two apprentices in Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's garage. He is later cut from his apprenticeship and joined the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency as a Jr Assistant Detective.
  • Fanwell, the younger apprentice, is always referred to as the apprentice in the earlier novels. His name is not mentioned until Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. He lives in a small house with his grandmother and his several younger brothers and sisters. Although he is slightly more serious than his older friend, Charlie, he still frequently discusses girls with Charlie. He eventually becomes a mechanic in "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection".
  • Mr. Polopetsi, an assistant to Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. He is introduced in In The Company of Cheerful Ladies. He later became an assistant Chemistry teacher at a local secondary school, but still works at the agency part time.
  • Phuti Radiphuti, Grace Makutsi's fiancé, introduced in In The Company of Cheerful Ladies. In The Double Comfort Safari Club, he has an accident in which he loses his foot, which causes Mma Makutsi to worry about their relationship. They are finally married in The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.
  • Violet Sephotho, Mma Makutsi's rival from the Botswana Secretarial College, introduced in In the Company of Cheerful Ladies. She returns in most books subsequent to her introduction with new schemes to ruin Mma Makutsi's life with Rra Phuti Radiphuti. In The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, she is discussed as running for a parliament in an upcoming by-election but makes no direct appearance. In The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon she is named as the owner of the dress shop Botswana Elegance, but again makes no direct appearance.
  • Dr Moffat, The doctor and his wife are good friends of Mma Ramotswe, and he treats Mr J.L.B. Matekoni when he falls into a deep depression. He is based on a real person, Howard Moffat, a direct descendant of Robert Moffat, the Scottish missionary whose daughter Mary married David Livingstone.
  • Mma Sylvia Potokwane, matron of the 'Orphan Farm', always ready to offer wisdom, bush tea and fruit cake to Mma Ramotswe. Mma Potokwane is effective in achieving her goals for the orphans and the orphan farm. This skill has Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni doing mechanical repairs for free and later taking on two foster children.
  • Note Mokoti, Mma Precious Ramotswe's former husband and father of her short-lived baby. Note treated Mma Ramotswe poorly and Precious says that marrying him was a mistake. Later she learns he was married to another woman at the time of their marriage, so she has no need of divorce prior to her marriage to Matekoni.
  • Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's two adopted children, Motholeli and Puso.
  • Clovis Andersen, an American, author of the self-published The Principles of Private Detection and idol of both Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi. He arrives for a visit in The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection and his presence helps to solve a very personal case.
  • Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti infant son of Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti, born three weeks premature in The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon.

Settings[edit]

Themes and topics of the stories[edit]

Issues addressed in the cases[edit]

Series Order[edit]

  1. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1998)
  2. Tears of the Giraffe (2000)
  3. Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001)
  4. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002)
  5. The Full Cupboard of Life (2004)
  6. In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004 – also known as The Night-Time Dancer)
  7. Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)
  8. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007)
  9. The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)
  10. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
  11. The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
  12. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011)
  13. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (2012)
  14. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013)
  15. The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe (2014)
  16. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (2015)
  17. Precious and Grace (2016)

Adaptations[edit]

The novels have been adapted for radio by the author and for television.

Television[edit]

The BBC and American television network HBO filmed a series based on the books that stars Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe and was shot on location in Botswana.[8] The 109-minute pilot was written by Richard Curtis and Anthony Minghella, who also directed.[8] The six 60-minute episodes were written and directed by others, as Mr Minghella died before the series was filmed.[9][10]

Radio[edit]

McCall Smith himself dramatised the series for BBC Radio 4. Thirty-one episodes have been broadcast, the first on 10 September 2004, and the most recent on 5 August 2016. The episodes encompass the first to the sixteenth books. They star Claire Benedict as Mma Ramotswe (except the 2010 episodes, when she was played by Janice Acquah).[11]

Episodes:

  1. The Daddy – 10 September 2004[12]
  2. The Bone – 17 September 2004[13]
  3. The Maid – 24 September 2004[14]
  4. Tears of the Giraffe – 1 October 2004[15]
  5. The Chief Justice of Beauty – 30 August 2005[16]
  6. The Confession – 6 September 2005[17]
  7. The Kalahari Typing School for Men – 13 September 2005[18]
  8. The Admirer – 20 September 2005[19]
  9. How to Handle Men through the Application of Psychology – 18 January 2007[20]
  10. House of Hope – 25 January 2007[21]
  11. The Return of Note – 1 February 2007[22]
  12. The Ceremony – 8 February 2007[23]
  13. There Is No Such Thing as Free Food – 1 January 2008[24]
  14. The Best Profession for a Blackmailer – 2 January 2008[25]
  15. A Very Rude Woman – 3 January 2008[26]
  16. Talking Shoes – 4 January 2008[27]
  17. The Miracle at Speedy Motors – 25 December 2008[28]
  18. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built – 25 December 2009[29]
  19. The Seller of Beds – 25 December 2009[30]
  20. An Exceptionally Wicked Lady – 2 December 2010[31]
  21. Canoeing for Ladies – 3 December 2010[32]
  22. A Late Van Just Glimpsed – 3 November 2011[33]
  23. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding – 4 November 2011[34]
  24. A Man from a Far Place – 20 March 2013[35]
  25. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection – 21 March 2013[36]
  26. The Modern Husband Course – 5 February 2014[37]
  27. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon – 6 February 2014[38]
  28. The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe – 12 March 2015[39]
  29. The Dish of Yesterday – 13 March 2015[40]
  30. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine: Part 1 – 4 August 2016
  31. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine: Part 2 – 5 August 2016

Related book[edit]

A cookbook associated with the novels was published in 2009; Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook by Stuart Brown, with a foreword by Alexander McCall Smith.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency". Kirkus Reviews. 2001. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  2. ^ McCall Smith, Alexander (August 2002). Tears of the Giraffe (First Anchor Books ed.). New York: Anchor, Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-3135-1. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  3. ^ "Alexander McCall Smith". To the Best of Our Knowledge. Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Precious success puts publisher in major league". The Scotsman. 17 August 2004. 
  5. ^ "Alexander McCall Smith Awards 2004". British Council, Literature. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Dagger in the Library Award 2004". Crime Writers Association. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  7. ^ Sercombe, Eva (7 December 2015). "Alexander McCall Smith a jeho První dámská detektivní kancelář" [The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith]. Velká Británie (in Czech). Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Bellafante, Ginia (March 26, 2009). "Unusual Sleuth, Unusual Setting". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  9. ^ People & Places (2008). "Speaking of HBO". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 14 March 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ Oglethorpe, Tim (12 March 2009). "Move over Miss Marple... Jill Scott is back as Mma Ramotswe in new series of The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  11. ^ McCall Smith, Alexander. "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Radio". Radio Listings of BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 6 December 2016. 
  12. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Daddy
  13. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Bone
  14. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Maid
  15. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Tears of the Giraffe
  16. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Chief Justice of Beauty
  17. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Confession
  18. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Kalahari Typing School for Men
  19. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Admirer
  20. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: How to Handle Men through the Application of Psychology
  21. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: House of Hope
  22. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Return of Note
  23. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Ceremony
  24. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: There Is No Such Thing as Free Food
  25. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Best Profession for a Blackmailer
  26. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: A Very Rude Woman
  27. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Talking Shoes
  28. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Miracle at Speedy Motors
  29. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  30. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Seller of Beds
  31. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: An Exceptionally Wicked Lady
  32. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Canoeing for Ladies
  33. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: A Late Van Just Glimpsed
  34. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding
  35. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: A Man from a Far Place
  36. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
  37. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Modern Husband Course
  38. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
  39. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe
  40. ^ BBC – Afternoon Play – The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: The Dish of Yesterday
  41. ^ Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook

External links[edit]