Three No. 1 Ladies; Detective Agency Novels
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.