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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Chapters 10-12 June 16, 2007

Posted by Han in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Sm.

Unlike in most other mysteries, in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Mma Ramotswe solves a number of small crimes, rather than a single major one. How does this affect the narrative pacing of the novel? What other unique features distinguish The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency from the conventional mystery novel?

What is surprising about the nature of the cases Mma Ramotswe is hired to solve? By what means does Alexander McCall Smith sustain the reader’s interest, in the absence of the kind of tension, violence, and suspense that drive most mysteries?



1. Michelle - June 26, 2007

That Mma Ramotswe solves several small crimes v. one large one, I believe, is one of the reasons the book is an easy read. A good pick up, read a page or two, put down type of book. Heather, you read it on one sitting — was it disjointed that way?

I’m enjoying Mma Ramotswe’s observations:

“It was curious how some people had a highly developed sense of guilt, she thought, while others had none.”

Hmmm…. something to think about….

2. Heather - June 27, 2007


The only part that was a bit disjointed for me was in the beginning, when the narrative voice shifts from Precious to her father to universal and then back to Precious. I think I was just so happy that school was over and I actually had the time to sit and read a book at my leisure, that I didn’t want to put it down!

The book reminds me of some of the African tales I read to my kids this year. They have a similar structure, in that they are an assortment of small stories. I think that structure fits nicely with the storyteller tradition in African culture. Someone told me they actually listened to this as a book on tape, and the narrator had a South African accent; again, that would enhance the storyteller feel of this book.

This book is different from many traditional mysteries in that she doesn’t always get it right. I think that’s a refreshing approach, because it’s not predictable. (Like the end of Chapter 9 when she’s introduced to the boyfriend, Jack!) If every case was solved perfectly, I do think it would get a little boring!

I love her observations, too, Michelle! She understands much about human nature! And I love her quick thinking!

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