Three No. 1 Ladies; Detective Agency Novels

Source: HBOMax

During the last few months I have been catching up on hard copies of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Novels (hand-me-overs from kind friends).  Suddenly I realized that I have neglected writing to igNation about these extraordinary women so permit me to catch up.

Since I last reported, McCall Smith along with his many other books has published five more about Mmas Ramwotswe and Makutsi.  Two I have yet to read:   The Colors of All the Cattle (2018) and To the Land of Long Lost Friends (2019)

In The Woman who Walked in Sunshine (2015) Mma Ramwotswe has been maneuvered into taking a holiday by Mma Makutsi, her associate detective, but soon finds that she has more to do on holidays than she would at work.

In the process of enjoying her freedom she saves a little boy from a promising life of crime, helps her colleague, Rra Polopetsi, work towards the vindication of a noted gentleman’s reputation, and disrupts the dishonest money-making plans of the notorious Violet Sephotho.

In the end she realizes that she has trained Mma Makutsi to be an astute and perceptive detective who still depends on her mentor.

Precious and Grace (2016) is the story of a Canadian woman searching for her nanny of many years ago.  Mma Ramwotswe takes up her case enthusiastically, but finds that it is much more complicated than she imagined, and that all is not as it seems.

In the process of solving the mystery of this Canadian visitor, she supports Mma Makutsi’s bid to be Woman of the Year, rescues Rra Polopetsi from a pyramid scheme and finds a home for a stray dog who has attached himself to the agency and its staff.

Through her investigation of the dismissal of a shop employee who comes to the agency for help we find out in The House of Unexpected Sisters (2017) that Mma Matusti’s training is not yet totally finished.

As she and Rra Polopetsei make a parallel investigation to Mma Makutsi’s, Mma Ramwotswe also makes a happy discovery about her family, but one that also contains a devastating blow – a mystery in itself.  There are puzzles within puzzles in each of these adventures, but as usual McCall-Smith sorts them all into a very satisfying and enlightening solution.

Reflecting on my great enjoyment of these three novels I wondered about its source.   I think what I find so interesting in these day-to-day human mysteries (in comparison to often complex, bizarre and dark mysteries of authors like J.K Rowling (aka Robert Galbraith) although I enjoy them as well) is how parallel they are to my own daily psychological puzzles.

Like all good detectives, Mma Ramwotswe is a shrewd psychologist who uses her depth of understanding of human nature to the full in helping her neighbour enjoy a richer life.

Joseph Schner, SJ, is a professor of Psychology and Religion at the Toronto School of Theology.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:28h, 18 October Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Sally D Kelly
    Posted at 10:22h, 18 October Reply

    Oh my gosh, I was so excited to see this today. I love this writer and especially these you books you mention. I’ve learned so much from him, through his characters. I often re-read one of the Ladies Detective Agency books. they’ve become like old and dear friends to me.
    You might like his 44 Scotland Street series as well. Or the Isabel Dalhousie books, also by Alexander McCall Smith. Full of equally eccentric and insightful characters. Thank you for this review Fr Frank

  • Wendy A McCreath
    Posted at 10:28h, 18 October Reply

    The highly absorbing and positive, yet complicated, No.1 Ladies Detective series helped get me through the first awful months of the pandemic. I have read all but the last two books. They are addictive!

  • Gemma Neal
    Posted at 13:25h, 18 October Reply

    Many thanks Rev Doctor Joseph Schner, S.J.
    You have reminded me of how much I have enjoyed these novels.
    Time for a another trip to the library.

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