I discovered the delightfully unique detective series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith several years ago. The heroine, Precious Ramotswe, is a one of a kind detective. The stories, set in Botswana, Africa, move languidly through the African cultural landscape, but the characters are both fun to get to know and have the kind of depth that is rooted in the human experience.
To my delight, I learned that the books had been turned into an HBO series. It turns out the series has been around for a couple of years. But I don’t subscribe to HBO, so this was a new discovery for me. I bought the boxed set as a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law Mary Joy, who is a HUGE mystery fan (and co-author of our mystery novel, On the Road to Death’s Door). It wasn’t an altruistic choice. I knew I would get to watch the series with her.
And it was a great choice, if I do say so myself! Precious Ramotswe, played by American actress Jill Scott, is a “traditionally built woman” who uses the money from the sale of her late father’s herd of cattle to open her detective agency. Precious is smart, wise, and empathetic. When she solves a mystery, she thinks as much about what effects her discoveries will have on the victims of crime as on the perpetrators.
Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) plays Grace Makutsi, the over-the-top, hyper-efficient secretary who’s goal in life is to become a detective in her own right. Desmond Dube plays the local hairdresser and Lucian Msamati plays the mechanic, JLB Matekoni, who will do anything for Precious, primarily because he respects her so much, but also in the hopes that he can eventually convince her to marry him.
Filmed in Africa, the series portrays a gentler side of the continent than most of us usually—perhaps stereotypically—associate with it. If you like mysteries, or if you like a series with characters that you can connect with even if their lives are as different from your own as the continent of Africa is from the U.S., you might want to check out either the books or the HBO series, The No. 1 LadiesDetective Agency. Believe me, you are in for a treat.