The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a series of crime novels by British writer Alexander McCall Smith set in Botswana and featuring the character Mma Precious Ramotswe.
When she was 34 years old, using the inheritance from her father, Mma Ramotswe moved to the capital city Gaborone to start up her detective agency. She bought a house for herself and found an office for her new business. Then, she started solving problems!
How to read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series in Order?
Every entry in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Precious Ramotswe is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.
- Tears of the Giraffe – Precious Ramotswe tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 percent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.
- Morality for Beautiful Girls – Precious Ramotswe investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.
- The Kalahari Typing School for Men – Mma Precious Ramotswe has a house, two adopted children, a fine fiancé. But, as always, there are troubles. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has not set the date for their marriage. Her able assistant, Mma Makutsi, wants a husband. And worse, a rival detective agency has opened in town-an agency that does not have the gentle approach to business that Mma Ramotswe’s does. But, of course, Precious will manage these things, as she always does, with her uncanny insight and her good heart.
- The Full Cupboard of Life – Still engaged to the estimable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe understands that she should not put too much pressure on him, as he has other concerns, especially a hair-raising request from the ever persuasive Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Besides Mma Ramotswe herself has weighty matters on her mind. She has been approached by a wealthy lady to check up on several suitors. Are these men interested in the lady or just her money? This may be a difficult case, but it’s just the kind of problem Mma Ramotswe likes.
- In The Company of Cheerful Ladies – also known as The Night-Time Dancer. Precious is busier than usual at the detective agency when she discovers an intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and a pumpkin on her porch. Her associate, Mma Makutsi, also has a full plate. And at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, where Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is already overburdened with work. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a difficult secret from her past.
- Blue Shoes and Happiness – A new and rather too brusque advice columnist is appearing in the local paper. Then, a cobra is found in the offices of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Recently, the Mokolodi Game Preserve manager feels an infectious fear spreading among his workers, and a local doctor may be falsifying blood pressure readings. To further complicate matters, Grace Makutsi may have scared off her own fiancé. Mma Precious Ramotswe, however, is always up to the challenge.
- The Good Husband of Zebra Drive – There is rarely a dull moment in the life of Precious Ramotswe, and on Zebra Drive and Tlokweng Road many changes are afoot. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni wants be put in charge of a case involving an errant husband, and Mma Makutsi is considering leaving the agency, taking her near perfect score on the Botswana Secretarial College typing exam with her. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has been asked to investigate a series of unexpected deaths at the hospital in Mochudi.
- The Miracle at Speedy Motors – Under the endless skies of Botswana, there is always something Mma Ramotswe can do to help someone and here she finds herself assisting a woman looking for her family. The problem is the woman doesn’t know her real name or whether any of her family members are still alive.
- Tea Time for the Traditionally Built – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been hired to explain the unexpected losing streak of a local football club, the Kalahari Swoopers. But with Mma Ramotswe on the case, it seems certain that everything will be resolved satisfactorily.
- The Double Comfort Safari Club – Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi head to a safari camp to carry out a delicate mission on behalf of a former guest who has left one of the guides a large sum of money. But once they find their man, Precious begins to sense that something is not right. To make matters worse, shortly before their departure Mma Makutsi’s fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti, suffers a debilitating accident, and when his aunt moves in to take care of him, she also pushes Mma Makutsi out of the picture.
- The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party – As Mma Ramotswe investigates the deaths of cows at a cattle post outside Gaborone, she finds herself also pursuing other mysteries closer to home. One of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentices appears to have gotten a girl pregnant, and has run away to avoid marrying her. Meanwhile, Precious sees her beloved old van-sent to the junkyard long ago-trundling around the city again. Has the van been miraculously revived, or is she hallucinating?
- The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection – Precious Ramotswe is very busy these days. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. Most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, the orphan farm’s respected matron, has been dismissed from her post. Mma Ramotswe is not about to rest when her friends are mistreated.
- The Cleverness of Ladies (short story) – There are times when ladies must use all their wisdom and good sense to face life’s problems and mysteries. Mma Ramotswe, owner of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, keeps her wits about her as she looks into why the country’s star goalkeeper isn’t saving goals. Georgina turns her rudeness into a virtue when she opens a successful hotel. Italian shop-keeper Fabrizia shows her bravery when her husband betrays her. And in Suffolk during the Second World War, gentle La proves that music really can make a difference.
- The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon – Precious Ramotswe has her hands full with two puzzling cases. The first concerns a young man hoping to claim his inheritance at his uncle’s farm. The second involves the just-opened Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which has been shadowed by misfortune, from bad omens in the mail to swirling rumors that its products are dangerous. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has come to suspect that her intrepid associate Grace Makutsi is pregnant.
- The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe – Over the years Mma Ramotswe has found many lost things, but never before has she been asked to help a woman find herself-until now. A kindhearted brother and sister have taken in a nameless woman with no memory of her own history or how she came to Botswana. It falls to Precious Ramotswe and her new co-director, Grace Makutsi, to discover the woman’s identity.
- The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine – Business is slow at the agency-so slow in fact that, for the first time in her distinguished career, Mma Ramotswe has reluctantly agreed to take a holiday. The week of uninterrupted peace is cut short, however, when she meets Samuel, a wayward young boy with a troubled past.
- Precious and Grace – Mma Makutsi has been encouraging Mma Ramotswe to update to more modern office practices. An unusual case, however, will require both of them to turn their attention firmly to the past. A young Canadian woman who spent her early childhood in Botswana requests the agency’s help in recalling her life there. Precious and Grace set out to locate the house that the woman lived in and the caretaker who looked after her many years ago.
- The House of Unexpected Sisters – Mr. Polopetsi tells Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi a troubling story about a woman who has been wrongly dismissed from her job. Never one to let an injustice go unanswered, Mma Ramotswe begins to investigate, but she soon discovers that the case is more complicated than she initially suspected.
- The Colours of All the Cattle – When Mma Potokwane suggests to Mma Ramotswe that she run for a seat on the City Council, Mma Ramotswe is at first unsure. But when she learns about the proposed construction of the flashy Big Fun Hotel next to a graveyard, she allows herself to be persuaded. Her opponent is none other than Violet Sephotho, who is in the pocket of the hotel developers.
- To the Land of Long Lost Friends – Mma Ramotswe reconnects with an old friend who has been having problems with her daughter. Though Previous feels compelled to lend a hand, she discovers that getting involved in family affairs is always a delicate proposition. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni finds himself embroiled in familial drama as well, when one of his clients asks for help evicting an unwanted houseguest who turns out to be the man’s own brother.
- How to Raise an Elephant – As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . .
- The Joy and Light Bus Company – Mma Ramotswe knows she is very lucky indeed. She has a loving family, good friends, and a thriving business doing what she enjoys most: helping people. But the latest mystery she is called upon to solve is distinctly trickier than it initially appears, and, of course, there’s plenty to handle in her personal life between Charlie and his new bride and Mma Makutsi and her talking shoes.
- A Song of Comfortable Chairs – Grace Makutsi’s husband, Phuti, is in a bind. An international firm is attempting to undercut his prices in the office furniture market. Phuti has always been concerned with quality and comfort, but this new firm seems interested only in profits. To make matters worse, they have a slick new advertising campaign that seems hard to beat. Nonetheless, with Mma Ramotswe’s help, Phtui comes up with a campaign that may just do the trick.
- From a Far and Lovely Country – If you are the founder and Managing Director of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency you may expect complete strangers to approach you with their problems when they see you having dinner with your husband in a peri-peri restaurant. And if you are Precious Ramotswe, you are a kind and helpful person who will be willing to take on a quest to find the relatives of a man who, many years ago, left the country for the uncertainties and dangers of a distant conflict.
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