Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I've seen this series all over the place and for some reason assumed it was all Janet Evanovich style. Which is when I guess I have to confess to having read one of the Stephanie Plum books. But I swear I didn't like it! Actually, now that I think of it, I think maybe I listened to it as a book on tape. More shameful? Not sure. Mostly I just remember a sassy, red-head type who solves mysteries that involve a handsome, surly man who ends up in the sack with her. After having read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency it's pretty hilarious that I put it in the same category as the Plum series because they are totally unalike.

This book features Precious (Mma) Ramotswe, an enormous lady from Botswana. Her much adored father dies after working in the diamond mines for his entire life and leaves his fortune to his only child. She spends it all on starting her own detective agency. She has no qualifications other than being wise and observant, in a folksy, tea drinking sort of way. She is the only "lady detective" in all of the country and she solves an assortment of quirky cases in this book. None of them are particularly challenging and each is resolved in about 24 hours. I don't know. It was sort of uneventful. Some woman's long lost father reappears only to mooch off her for weeks. Detective Ramotswe tricks the father into admitting he's an imposter and tells him to go away. So he does. Then she follows a high school girl around because her father thinks she has a boyfriend and doesn't approve. She finds out the girl doesn't really have a boyfriend and tells the father to give his daughter space. He does. All mysteries are solved faster than an episode of Law & Order.

Then you get to the case of the missing 11 year old boy. This case is referenced on the back of the book as being "the big mystery" so I was looking forward to this part of the book. The boy is abducted on his way home. Then Mma Ramotswe hears from her mechanic friend about a bag of witchcraft medicine (ie; bones and skin) that was found in a car at his shop. The "medicine" is the finger bone of a young boy recently---

Woah! I have to take this review on a detour for a minute because some seriously questionable music just started playing on Jeff's computer. I swear a minute ago we were listening to something normal, but this song appears to be Mexican gangster rap interspersed with mariachi music. Um, wha? Jeff was at the computer before I sat down and I left his playlist undisturbed. Strangely, when I look at the iTunes window it says I'm listening to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I wish Mma Ramotswe was here to solve the mystery of why Jeff is listening to this terrible music. But she's not, so I will continue with my review.

Back to the finger bone. So she tracks down the medicine man who sold the finger bone to the car owner. He must be the killer, yes? But after a 5 minute chat with the medicine man's wife, she finds that, surprise! The boy isn't dead. It wasn't even his finger! They bought those bones at some other village. They're just keeping the boy as a forced laborer at a cattle ranch a few hours away. Mma Ramotswe drives to the cattle ranch and takes the boy home. Except what? If it wasn't his finger, than how does the solving of the mystery even make sense? The only reason she found the medicine man is because of the finger bone! Is anyone else smelling something not quite right? Maybe I'm the one missing something, but it seems like this book could have used a continuity director.

Here's the thing, the main character is pretty badass. She's enormously fat and all the men love her. At one point, she's looking at some blouses and when the saleswoman asks her to buy one, she proudly responds that they don't have a blouse big enough for her, like if I were to say to the Clinique woman, "I'm sorry, but I can't buy any of your foundation because it doesn't come in a shade as flawless as my natural skin tone." She's smart and sassy and the descriptions of Africa and her father are really endearing. I guess it's a sweet book. I was just so distracted by the simplicity of it all, I couldn't really enjoy it. I think if you're looking for an entertaining series starring a lady detective, I'd recommend The Bee Keeper's Apprentice over this series any day. But if you're thinking of picking up the Stephanie Plum series by Evanovich, put that thought out of your head right now. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency ranks higher.


Bybee said...

Oh, I want to read this series...luckily, it's available in Korea.

Anonymous said...

I just read this book, too! It was a good read for riding 5 hours in a car through KS/OK/AR...

and I enjoyed the Stephanie Plum books, too. OH well!

Amanda said...

Too funny! I've seen that series before too and am a bit curious as well. I too (ashamedly) read the first Stephanie Plum book and did NOT like it as well. So right now I'm reading the first book in another series by Alexander McCall Smith called The Sunday Philosophy Club and am enjoying it!

Heather J. said...

thanks for throwing in that comment about The Beekeeper's Apprentice - I read it earlier this year and LOVED it, and am planning to read the rest of the series at some point

as for this book, I've always thought that it wasn't for me, and you just confirmed that - thanks. :)

Katie said...

You're right, not the best read in the world, but not bad either.