Read by Lisette Lecat
This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.
When Alexander McCall Smith first published The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency he was already a successful author, having published nine books before this one. I have no idea how successful those were; but I had the feeling, as I listened to this book, that he knew going in that there was a good chance that this might before a series. Smith gives readers the full background of Precious "Mma" Ramotswe and introduces us to a number of characters you can't help but feel you'll be seeing again. And while the book ties up all of the cases introduced here, Smith leaves readers with the impression that Mma Ramotswe is just starting to make a real success of the agency she's started and leaves her behind just as she's accepted a proposal from a man whose been pining over her for years.
Precious has some history that makes her compassionate and interesting and a personality that can't help but appeal to readers. She's plenty smart but it's her common sense, observant nature, and quick thinking that really make her a success at the business she's used her father's inheritance to open. Even more appealing, for me, was that she was a fallible, middle-aged woman, heavy-set woman who people liked - in other words, she was relatable in a way so many mystery heroines are not.
This book (and, I would assume, the series) leans more toward a cozy mystery while still touching on the darker side of people which makes it more appealing to me than your average cozy mystery. Smith gives readers good insight into life in Botswana, the culture, the landscape, the people. Lisette Lecat, who does a fantastic job giving each character a unique voice, also enhances the setting of the book. I can't recommend the audiobook version of this book highly enough. My coworker, who recommended this book to me, was absolutely correct on that score! Knowing that Lecat will continue reading the series, I'm certain that I will be picking up the next book in the series when next I need a break from heavier, longer books.