After finally getting around to reading the first installment of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, I have mixed reviews. I love several aspects of this first novel (which, by the way, shares the same title as the series - The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency). I love the fact that Mme Ramotswe just up and decides one day she will open up a detective agency, without any background training or credentials, and it works. That's pretty inspirational for anyone thinking of taking on a new profession. All it seems like you need to start a new career is some money saved from your father's goats, an assistant, and some rose bush tea and you're good to go. "There was a teapot, in which Mme Ramostwe - the only lady private detective in Botswana - brewed tea. And three mugs - one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?"
I also love how Mme Ramotswe keeps proving the skeptical men wrong when they ask how a woman can be a detective, although I don't love how she keeps referencing Agatha Christie as her only example of a talented lady detective. Mme Ramotswe's observations on life are quite interesting as well. "The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That's how most people thought."
Yet some of the book was lost on me. I didn't like the rambling, random thought tangents Mme Ramotswe would go on. Some of the cases she would take weren't very exciting, such as when Mme Ramotswe had to follow a teenage girl to see if she had a boyfriend. I guess I've become too cynical due to all of the modern day CSI type stores. The cases Mme Ramotswe solves are pretty fluffy in comparison, therefore I had a bit of trouble investing too much in some of the storylines. While I like the simplistic, straight-forward way Mme Ramotswe operates, part of me resents the fact that a white British man is characterizing an African woman, even though I know he did live in Botswana.
Still, the book was extremely charming, and Mme Ramotswe is a genuinely graceful character to read. I love how she's so independent and confident. And of course, even though she refused him the first time, I'll probably have to read the second book to see if Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (yes, he's always referred to by his full name) and Mme Ramotswe actually get married.