The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (novel)

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This is an article about the book. For the television series by the same title, see The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (TV series)
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
First edition
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Language English
Series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series
Genre Detective, Mystery novel
Publisher Polygon Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 256 pp
ISBN 0-7486-6252-9
OCLC 40736156
Followed by Tears Of The Giraffe

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, set in Gaborone, Botswana, and featuring the Motswana protagonist Precious Ramotswe. Part of the novel's plot is based on the murder of Segametsi Mogomotsi in 1994, a ritual killing in Mochudi.

Plot summary[edit]

Mma Precious Ramotswe becomes a private detective, the first woman in Botswana to enter that profession, and opens an agency whose name indicates this unique situation. Motivated to help others and to make Botswana a better place, she encounters many dangerous and risky obstacles in the course of her investigations but succeeds through using her intelligence, courage and instinct. Along with the plot developments, Mma Ramotswe provides observations upon the qualities of Botswana and Africa: the culture, traditions, and natural beauties found there, and the inhabitants' pride in their land.


National identity[edit]

In the second chapter, the author states, through Obed’s character, that Precious’ father is proud to be a Motswana because of Botswana's political stability. Alexander McCall Smith describes Mma Ramotswe as an African patriot, who loves Africa "for all its trials." He says that they never had political prisoners, that their banks are full of money and that they owe nothing.

Main characters[edit]

  • Mma Precious Ramotswe (Detective in the Detective Agency)
  • Mma Grace Makutsi (Secretary)
  • Mr. J.L.B Matekoni (Precious' Eventual 2nd Husband)
  • Mr. Patel (Very rich retired businessman)
  • Obed Ramotswe (Daddy)
  • Note Mokoti (Precious' Ex-Husband)
  • Dr. Maketsi (Old Friend from Mochudi)


Mma Ramotswe portrays a person whose character intertwines modern views and traditions of Africa. Many of her views are reflected in the course of the novel. Family life is an extremely important part of this nation's culture and tradition. “She would buy a house, or build one perhaps, and ask some of her cousins to live with her. They would grow melons on the lands and might even buy a small shop in the village...” Through descriptions of the scenes and influences in the novel, the author shows a clearer picture of the modern views as well as the traditional views of Botswana and Africa in general. Mma Ramotswe loves her country and its people. It is often seen in the book that she will make references to her country's identity and her pride about being from Botswana.


However, Alexander McCall Smith does not hide the fact that Africa is home to many dangerous and some of the most feared creatures. In fact he describes the snakes and the crocodiles with great emotion and drama. For example, in the case of the missing husband who had been eaten by a crocodile, the author describes how dangerous Africa can be. There are also many incidents where snakes and their intrusive and sneaky ways are mentioned. The author shows these images of Africa and sets a certain setting to all of these incidents to say that even if this continent might be dangerous and wild at times, it is nonetheless unique and majestic. Africa is also portrayed by the numerous animals and wild creatures who live there. These animals are described by the author with much passion. He shows how dangerous yet loved and respected they are. For example the cattle in Africa are portrayed with great importance. The author even shows us that they are an important currency for the economy - the more cattle you own, the more power you have.


  1. The Daddy
  2. All Those Years Ago
  3. Lessons about Boys and Goats
  4. Living with the Cousin and the Cousin's Husband
  5. What You Need to Open a Detective Agency
  6. Boy
  7. Mma Makutsi Deals with the Mail
  8. A Conversation with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni
  9. The Boyfriend
  10. Mma Ramotswe Thinks about the Land while Driving her Tiny White Van to Francistown
  11. Big Car Guilt
  12. Mma Ramotswe's House in Zebra Drive
  13. Why Don't You Marry Me?
  14. Handsome Man
  15. Mr J.L.B Matekoni's Discovery
  16. The Cutting of Fingers and Snakes
  17. The Third Metacarpal
  18. A Lot of Lies
  19. Mr Charlie Gotso, BA
  20. Medical Matters
  21. The Witchdoctor's Wife
  22. Mr J.L.B Matekoni

Film, television, and theatrical adaptations[edit]

An adaptation for the screen The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was made in 2007, directed by Anthony Minghella (who also co-wrote the screenplay), and scripted by Richard Curtis. A movie for TV was made jointly by the BBC, HBO and some other production companies. It was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC1 television on Easter Sunday 23 March 2008".[1]


External links[edit]