I often find that I’m in the midst of reading two books at once, especially if one is fiction and one is non-fiction. That’s what happened to me recently, finishing both Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith, in the same week. I discussed the former book in my preceding post; this post is about the latter.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is an engaging, good-humored mystery in the cozy tradition. It’s slow-paced, but in a very different way from another Smith novel that I reviewed on April 19, The Sunday Philosophy Club, which is contemplative and intellectual. The slow pace of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is more that of a relaxed, laid-back society, which contrasts nicely with the fast pace of the contemporary United States, especially in the northeast. Since it takes place in Botswana, and the setting is practically a character in its own right, the pace is an organic part of the book, not an artificial style adopted by the author.
As the first novel in a series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency devotes most of its pages to introducing the protagonist, Precious Ramotswe, in the context of her friends, her community, and her nation. It almost makes the reader want to visit Botswana, to learn its language, to meet its people.