It stars Mma Precious Ramotswe, a traditionally-built young woman living in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Her mother died when she was very young, and she was raised by her father, a former miner in South Africa who left the mines, bought cattle and made a nice life for the two of them. When he died, he left her enough money to buy a house and start a business. And the business she wanted to start was a detective agency.
The life and culture of Botswana and Africa are as much a part of the book as are the rather lightweight cases Mma Ramotswe takes on, but in spite of all that, it deals with infidelity, hornswaggling, power plays, rebellious teenagers, and kidnapping.
One of the delights of the book is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, the local mechanic, who is always referred to by his full name, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and in fact refers to himself as Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. The voice and rhythm of the writing gives such an African feel, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is part of that sense. You can almost hear Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing in the background.
I love the independence of Mma Ramotswe, and her clearly superior intellect, as she negotiates her way through the layers of the society of Gaborone.
(Did you know that there is actually a subgenre of anthropological detective fiction, in which the culture of its characters plays a major role in the story? Me neither. Think Tony Hillerman, et al.) This series is not so much about crime and violence as it is small morality tales. Really lovely.
I will definitely be reading some more of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.