Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Okay, I finished the book MONTHS ago but just haven’t gotten around to writing and posting my review until now. It’s a good job I made notes straight after I’d finished! The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is about a woman, Mme Ramotswe, who opens a detective agency in Botswana, and follows both her interactions with other characters and the cases brought to her and how she solves them. This book was part of my Continent Book challenge (the Africa months). This review is spoiler free (I think, there might be a couple tiny ones but nothing that will spoil anything about the book for you in any way).

The book is structured so that in every chapter (near enough) there is another case for Mme Ramotswe to solve. There is also one overarching case that runs throughout the book (revolving around a missing child and a witch doctor – I didn’t find any of it too grim or overly descriptive though). Alongside Mme Ramotswe is a pretty large cast of supporting characters, from the people she is helping to friends who help her. The characters seemed well rounded and interesting – they all seemed 3d to me, with well-thought out reasons behind every decision. I don’t know much about African culture, but I imagine the way these characters talk and interact with each other would be pretty realistic.

The main chapters, as I’ve said before, are about Mme Ramotswe and the cases she is hired to solve. However, interwoven into the main story is chapters about Mme Ramotswe’s background, her disastrous marriage, and her now deceased father who’s money she used to set up her detective agency. Although these chapters do slow the story itself down slightly, they make Mme Ramotswe more solid and I don’t think I would have understood and rooted for her quite so much had those insights into her past not been there.

In all, the book was well written and entertaining. I liked the characters and was satisfied with the ending (although it didn’t leave me with any lasting feelings either way). Maybe I just went into it with my expectations set too high but it just wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I can’t put my finger on anything WRONG with it, it just didn’t touch me, strike me, make me want to run back to the library and find all the sequels NOW. I mean, maybe if I saw the sequels in the library one day and was in a bit of a reading slump then I’d pick it up, but I wouldn’t go actively looking for it, nor am I particularly desperate to read it again.

I’m giving The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 3 out of 5 – it was a pretty fun, pretty light read that was well written, but I’m not chomping at the bit to read more.


Why the library is a dangerous place for me, and why it’s essential in my life.

ed libraryCentral Lending Library, Edinburgh (image from Google Images)

The library is a central and extremely important part of my life. However, it’s also a really, really, REALLY dangerous place for me. Think I’m exaggerating? You’ve never seen me scrabble around my room at 4:30pm because I just remembered I have 5 library books due and the library closes at 5pm. And I can’t for the life of me find the books. And I know they’re around here somewhere…

See, the thing is that I lead a very chaotic, highly disorganised life. And that’s fine, it really is. Truly. I recommend it. I know where the important things are. I know what I have to do each day. It’s fine. Except when I suddenly remember something I was supposed to do and then panic because it’s at this crucial moment that important stuff goes walkabout. Like library books (and incidentally also my hairdryer and clean socks). So you can bet that I spend 10 minutes frantically trying to find these library books (which almost always end up being in a stack at the end of my bed – and for some reason I still look everywhere else first. I’m waiting for the day I look in that place first and the books just won’t be there. Typical). I then run up to the library and arrive, breathless, sweaty, almost at closing time and plow into the self check out/return machines, where I spend a further couple of minutes trying to work out if I’m dying or if that double-vision-and-heart-palpatations combo is normal. It’s insanely stressful. But here’s the thing. The library is so important to me. I mean, it’s FREE BOOKS guys! That’s the stuff my dreams are made of! I just wish I was better at it.

BUT! My shining saviour in some ways and dark demon of Hell in others made itself known to me a few months ago. As some of you may know, I live in Edinburgh. And Edinburgh has A LOT of libraries, although I’ve only been into Central. Edinburgh also has this beautiful little beast of an App (simply called ‘Edinburgh Libraries’) that lets you access your account and see which books you have out and when they’re due. This is so useful for checking when I wake up so that I don’t have emergency dashes to the library 5 mins before closing, but it has an even more useful use – IT LETS YOU RENEW YOUR BOOKS!! It means if a book is due and I either haven’t finished it or don’t have much time that day I can renew the book from my phone, without having to go NEAR the library. This app has been a godsend. Seriously. It’s the best thing I’ve ever discovered.

However – there’s one thing that makes it dangerous. You can also reserve books on it. Of course you can go into the library and reserve books, but I always limited that luxury for when I was going to the library anyway. By having the ability to reserve books on my phone, I’m effectively ensuring that I always have at least 10 books on the go. One problem with this – the limit for checking out books is 12 at a time. I usually have 8-10 out at any one time. I am also now reserving 4+ each week. And reserved books are only held at the library for 10 days before being sent back to whence they came. I now spend an extraordinary amount of time reading books and trying to remember which of my reserved books arrived at the library first and therefore which I need to check out when I return my finished ones and which I have to read first and which I need to renew…the list of library tasks goes on. I think the staff probably think I’m weird at best (and a complete loon at worst) for sitting next to the reserved books pick up shelves and muttering to myself “no no, I need this one today I think not that one. No I can take that one out tomorrow as long as I don’t leave THAT one longer than Friday” etc. Hmmmm.

But of course I love it. Reading is my lifeblood and I’ve taken every advantage of the fact that Edinburgh library doesn’t charge you to reserve books (where I used to live before uni you had to pay 50p per book you order). Even though I might have to cut down a little now that exams are coming up. Hopefully not too much though… after all, I have a beautifully disorganised system in place.

Library Haul, Currently Reading & ANOTHER Reading Challenge?!?

Hey everyone! This is a quick update on my current reading, and also to let you know about the new Readathon I’ve started. But first, my library haul:

I’ve requested around 6 books from the library but only 2 were there today. These were:

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith – a novel set in Botswana about a rather unconventional female detective. The is apparently the first book in a series, so if I like it then hopefully I can find the others.

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin – this is about a man and his four wives, and their lives in Africa. I don’t know too much about this, but it looks pretty interesting so I’ll give it a shot.

This brings me to my next news – a new Readathon I’m participating in! It’s called the Continent Readathon and it was invented by TheBookJazz on YouTube (check out her channel or the Readathon page on Goodreads). Every month (or possibly every two months) the challenge is to read books from a certain continent. February’s continent is Africa! Obviously I’ll be reading the two books mentioned above, and I’ve also got 4 (I think) more due to be delivered to my local library. Hopefully they’ll come soon and I can get stuck into this challenge. You know, because I’m doing so well in my other challenge…

And finally, I thought I’d update you on the books I’m currently reading. Obviously there’s the two already mentioned that I’ll be reading this month, as well as (from top):





Hogfather by Terry Pratchett – this was recommended to me, and is about Death, who has to take over the Hogfather’s job on (what amounts to) Christmas Eve, and Susan, Death’s granddaughter who has to try and put things right. It’s a bit weird, but good so far!

I Miss Mummy by Cathy Glass – this is a true story (or based on) about an emergency foster carer and the children she fosters. This book is about Alice, a little girl who is taken away from her seemingly loving mother and grandparents.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – a circus appears in towns with no warning and no advertisements. It’s open from dusk till dawn, not in the day. It’s a cool concept, but I’m not far enough into the book yet to tell if I like it.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy – this is about a girl, Stephanie, who’s uncle dies and leaves her his house and his fortune. At the wake she meets Skulduggery, a rather mysterious detective, and gets drawn into a world of magic she never knew existed. I’m REALLY enjoying this so far!

So that’s all for now – I’ll be sure to do another library haul when the rest of my books get here. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are you taking part in any readathons this year and, if so, which ones? Is anyone else doing the Continent Readathon? Let me know in the comments!