cornerofmadness (cornerofmadness) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

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Book 93

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a solid 2.5 for me. Yes, I know this is a very well loved series but it didn't do it for me. I think in part that was due to broken expectations. This series has been part of my mystery club for years but it really isn't a mystery. It's more the day to day life of the main character, Precious Mma Ramotswe. In fact several of the opening chapters are from her father's point of view which bored me. The story isn't told completely linearly either.

But eventually, Mma Ramotswe inherits her father's estate, sells off his cattle and uses the money to buy a house and set up her shop as a detective, hoping to help people with their problems. I have to say that in reality the little cases she does deal with in this, cheating spouses, workman's comp fraud, car theft etc. are probably more realistic than most private eye novels. However, that doesn't make them particularly interesting.

I also didn't feel like I knew Mma Ramotswe well either. She's bright. She's independent. She's fat. (yes much is made of all three of these things). She had a very bad marriage and has a grim view of men in general though she does have several male friends who help her, especially Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, a local mechanic. She likes to read. So I guess I DO know a lot about Mma Ramotswe but it still felt somehow remote. Maybe that's due to the fact she prefers to be called by her last name.

There is really only one overriding mystery that starts about halfway through where a young boy has gone missing and is thought to have been killed for witch craft. But mostly we flit around to a handful of small cases and to her houses and business.

There is something that did really bother me and it's that other than Mma Ramotswe's many male friends all the other men are depicted as well kinda crappy. I will confess what I know about Botswana and its culture could dance on the head of a pin. The author was a law professor there so one would hope there is some accuracy to this. However, it still felt oddly slanted. It's very pro-women but it does seem that it's very locked into traditional roles. Women keep house and have kids and the men expect to be taken care of hand and foot, including fathers and cousins etc. That was one of the cases, a long missing father's return and him expecting to do no work and sit around drinking all day while the woman does everything. There's even a line about every woman in Botswana having been a victim of a man. I have no way of knowing how accurate this was of Botswanan men from almost twenty years ago now and I do like that the women have the author's sympathy. Still, there is something about this that bugged me mostly because Mma Ramotswe assumed every man is more or less a cheating listless loser (and was right).

I guess this bordered too close to being more contemporary fiction than mystery to interest me. I respect the success of the series but it's just not for me.

View all my reviews
Tags: mystery

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