Friday, December 30, 2005

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I just finished In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, the sixth book in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency book series. Katie and I have both read all six, and I just adore this series. It follows the life of Precious Ramotswe and her friends and family. Mma Ramotswe is, of course, Botswana’a first Lady Detective (fictional, sadly. I would love to think she is real).

The series is written by Alexander McCall Smith, who himself has spent many years in Botswana and clearly was enchanted by the country around him. These are “mystery books” in the loosest sense. Yes, there are detective stories within, but with each book, the cases become less and less as the series inceasingly focuses on the personal goings on of the main characters. The prose is simple yet eloquent, the setting is (too use the word again) enchanting, and the characters are people you wish were your friends. To read these stories is too escape from the maddening world just a bit.

The first three books were marvelous, then the series started to falter a little in the fourth book. The fifth book seemed to calculated in its attempt to be charming (I expect to entice new readers to the quirky series, while inadvertently slightly putting-off the long-time fans). Both #4 and #5 were still enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. Very good. But Book #6 is back on track, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

These books are also important to me in that the first books in this series (along with Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible) were the books that made me think “Hmm, I might want to know more about Africa.” And for those who know me, y’all know I cannot put into words how important that thought has been in my life. So please check them out. The books title are below:

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

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