March 29, 2007

Review:No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith

I have been reading several books at once lately. Most of them are non fictions that I have to read one chapter at a time and really absorb what the author is saying. I picked up McCall-Smith's book as something light to read between all the others. I'm not sure why I have so many nonfiction books on my reading table. I get bored with them quickly and rarely finish them. What can I say? I'm a fiction kind of gal.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was cute and fun. I have heard so many good reviews about it. But it was not what I expected. I thought it would be some group of Miss Marple-like women who stumble onto some mystery that only they can solve while the NYPD is scratching it's collective head. Apparently the reviews I've read are good at giving a favorable impression without giving away any of the details. The story takes place in Africa. (That explains the cover art.) It's mainly about Mma. Ramotswe's life in Gaborone as the first female private detective.

I enjoyed the book. Reading it is effortless, a sign of good writing. The plot moves along at a steady pace. The characters are easily pictured in the mind though I found them a bit caricatured; maybe 2-dimensional is more accurate. It didn't seem like anything deeper than a cute story. It didn't come across as real or give me any reason to use my brain. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying.

Perhaps I read too many classics to truly appreciate a simple story read for the pleasure. It just didn't move me the way it obviously has moved so many others. I would recommend it to people who read to relax. And with the release of book #8 in the series, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, you are guaranteed good reading for at least a couple of months.


booklogged said...

Petunia, I think the appeal of these books is the simplicity. And Mma. Ramotswe's straightforwardness. These are especially delightful to listen to. I read the first 4-5 and will probably not read anymore.

Petunia said...

I liked it's simplicity and straightforwardness but I kept waiting for something more substancial to happen. I enjoyed it though and would give it 4 out of 5 stars. But I probably won't bother reading anything else in this series. Are McCall-Smith's other books in the same simple style?

Literary Feline said...

For me, knowing that I shouldn't expect a mystery, but a book that is much more about the characters and their lives, prepared me for this book. I've come to love the series, each book gets better and better. The later books are slightly darker, but they never lose their simplicity and lightheartedness. I guess that's what I like most about them.

I haven't read any other of his books outside of this series, and so I can't comment as to if they are similar or not.

Melanie said...

I really do enjoy these books, for their slow pace and for the characters. I like McCall Smith's philosophical ponderings, too. His other books, while clearly written by him, are not really similar. The Isobel Dalhousie series is set in Scotland and has a bit of a sharper tone; his collected serials beginning with 44 Scotland Street have the same wandering kind of storyline but with very different characters. And his early trilogy featuring Prof. Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld is an amusing type of spoof on academia. His book for the "Myths" series, Dream Angus, is a collection of short stories that is very different, very appealing. I admit, I have a literary crush on Alexander McCall Smith!

Petunia said...

Wow, Melanie! You know your McCall-Smith. Thanks for giving me the scoop about his other writings. I may have to read some of his other stuff until I find something I can really dig into.

Marina said...

I got to listen to this book on cd a few years ago, and it was interesting to hear the African flavor of the story. I wonder if the simplicity is indicative of the culture (that is, its style of storytelling)?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other commenters that it IS the simplicity that makes the book so moving. When I read this, there were several passages that I marked that were about simplicity. Perhaps it is because for the past few years I have felt compelled to live more and more simply, that I found it an amazing read.
I agree that there isn't "much to it" but since I think that it the author's purpose it makes the book well-written. I am eagerly awaiting the 8th installment. I loved the entire series.

Petunia said...

Marina-As I read it I often wondered how to pronounce the names. I almost pulled out the atlas. I am shamefully lacking in geography knowledge, something I work at during school time with the kiddos.

Dana-If I had known it's beauty lay in it's simplicity before-hand it may have left a different impression on me. I think I read too many heady works. I have gotten used to figuring out for myself the author's hidden meaning. I missed simplicity as the meaning. But I won't give up. I will try another series by Smith and see what I can make of it.