Friday, April 3, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

Some time ago I learned about a fictional series written by Alexander McCall Smith, beginning with The No. 1 Ladie's Detective Agency. I've read and/or listened to audios of the entire series, and I love it. I particularly love listening to Lise Lecat reading the books on audio, as I learned the correct pronunciation of the names of people and places in the books that way. I was able to download the audios to my MP3 player from a local library.

McCall Smith's series is about the one and only female detective located in Botswana, but some readers argue over whether or not these are true mysteries, as there is rarely--if ever--a dead body. Mostly Mma Precious Ramotswe solves problems for her clients, such as whether a man who shows up in a young woman's life, claiming to be her father and requesting her to take care of him, is really her daddy. Mma Ramotswe's solution to the problem had me chuckling. The kidnapping of a small boy, and her solution is, well I don't know how to describe it, except it made me cry. Her solution to a possibly unfaithful husband had me rolling on the floor.

Jill Smith is perfect as Precious Ramotswe and Anika Noni Rose is absolutely hilarious as Mma Makutsi, her secretary-dying-to-become-a-detective. The characters were beliveable and the television version satisfyingly close to the book.

The scenery in this movie is amazing. It's one thing to picture Botswana from McCall Smith's descriptions, but to actually see it on television is nothing short of wonderful. And the interaction of the people living there is amazing as well.

We got to see the first in this series because we changed satellite providers and as a result are receiving free HBO for several months. If you don't have that opportunity and are a fan of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, do yourself a favor and find the DVD's if and when they are available. You won't regret it. And if you haven't read the series, you're missing a real treat!


Paul Lamb said...

Honestly, I don't know how it came to be the "standard" that a mystery has to have a murder. There's plenty of evil that people can do that doesn't involve murder. I think S.S. Van Dine may have started it with his list of mystery requirements, many of which he violated himself. (I think he wrote the list as a sort of joke, and people took it seriously.) The #1 Ladies Detective Agency shows that compelling stories can be written without resorting to the mayhem of murder.

Bill Crider said...

Liked the movie a lot but haven't read the books. Yet.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Hi Paul and Bill,

Whenever I read or listen to the books I find I'd love a cup of bush tea (IF only I knew what bush tea is.) They drink a lot in the books/audio.

I agree, Paul that this series shows that you don't need mayhem.

Bill, I think you'd enjoy the books.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sandra Parshall said...

Lonnie, red bush tea is made from the rooisbus plant. You can buy it in health food stores or online -- even Amazon sells it. I've seen it in the museum shop at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Put lots of honey in it. It needs it. :-)

I love the Ladies books, and the absence of murder doesn't diminish my enjoyment at all.

The Practical Preserver said...

I just found the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency in the laundry room at the Port Ludlow Marina where we keep our boat, Huckleberry. For some reason I'd shunned this book for years, but can't really explain why. Anyhow, I picked it up and fell in love with Precious Ramotswe and her pride in her "traditional African woman's figure of ample girth."
It's a great book and now I have the whole series to look forward to.

We've become fixated on blood and gore and bodies galore (nice rhyme there, I think) and it's a welcome relief to read something that doesn't need a shock a minute to keep your interest.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks, Sandy, I'll have to try that tea.

Practical Preserver, I'm glad you found the book, you'll enjoy it!

RhondaL said...

Not sure if it's still available, but I used to get Vanilla Rooibus tea at Starbucks. It's pretty tasty.

And, hello, HBO? I want a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency tee shirt.

I can't wait for tonight's episode.