“‘So,’ said Mma Ramotswe, ‘When people see a sign saying NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY, what will they think? They’ll think those ladies will know what’s going on. They’re the ones.'”
In Botswana, there is only one female private investigator – the finest and warmest Precious Ramotswe. Going by the title Mma Ramotswe, her detective agency gets all sorts of issues and characters coming through the door – potential victims of con artists, over-protective fathers, wives with cheating husbands. All these are but a daily occurrence until a letter asking for her help to find a lost boy piques her interest, sending her investigation into a scene of Africa’s scene of witch doctors and their rituals.
Precious Ramotswe, Investigator Extraordinaire…
On top of her independent streak and quick-witted manner, Precious is also deeply connected to her home – not as if she’s a military patriot or nationalist, but a community-loving citizen. She is wise and kind to her client and the people she meets, even though it may not be reciprocated.
She imparted wisdom and kindness with Mr. Patel, one of her richer clients. Although she had disagreed with him, she did not let it come into a quarrel. Instead, she carried out his request and gave him an alternative solution that did not go against he principles and gained a little understanding on his part. Her kindness also earned the friendship of his daughter, who she was supposed to follow. Another example is how she manages to continue to be polite to Alice Busang, despite how this client was rude and insulting to her even after Precious delivered what was asked.
Precious can also be said to be rather conventional. Her connection to her family (father & aunt) is deep, her constant memory going back to them. Her appreciation of tradition, culture, and personal connection can be shown through her constant mention of relaxation, tea, and appreciating nature being prominent in the novel.
Being a private investigator often brought about issues against common morality – adultery for example.
At the same time, Precious does adopt methods that may have readers question where she draws the line. After getting Mr. J.L.B Matekoni to lie to a client’s henchman to get a powerful man in Botswana to meet her, Precious declares that lying for a good cause was acceptable. (A grey area)
African Tradition & Culture…
Apart from the colourful descriptions of the people, land, diamonds, and conflicts, Sir Alexander does draw a few parallels between the events in the book with the land. It is as if there is a gray area where modern methods meet the traditional past and culture.
For example, with the mention of snakes during her investigations – Precious gets engrossed in a book about snakes while following Nandira Patel, only to have her subject slip from view and get tattled on by a slippery local gossip. Another example was how a green cobra slipped under her van while she was going to meet an attorney who sounded confident of opening a deadly trap from under her. In the end, she managed to kill the snake by cutting it in two with her skills – like she did with her case.
Style & Structure
Background information have been kept in the early chapters, setting the scene for Precious Ramotswe’s present. The smaller cases in between her major case serve not just to reflect a relatable reality of a one-woman show, but also build the different aspects of her character.
To find out more about Sir Alexander McCall Smith and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, click here.
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