Celebrate with us! The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – 20 years of humanity, kindness, humour, forgiveness and sheer joy

Date Published: 2nd April 2018

A very good reason to celebrate: 2018 is the twentieth anniversary of publication of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith—20 years of delightfully different books, page-after-page of humanity, kindness, humour and forgiveness, and in short, sheer joy.

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series started life as a short story written for friends but took hold of its author and grew first to one novel and then, over the space of twenty years, to nineteen (the nineteenth book, The Colours of All the Cattle, to be published later this year). The characters have won the hearts of readers around the globe and together, the eighteen volumes published so far have become one of the world’s most successful series, with over 20 million copies sold in English and translations into 46 languages. Written as a long love-letter to a country and culture which he admires, Alexander has no plans to bring this series to an end anytime soon.

Precious Ramotswe, that kind and cheerful woman of traditional build, is the founder of Botswana’s first and only ladies’ detective agency. Her methods may not be conventional, and her manner not exactly Miss Marple, but she’s got warmth, wit and canny intuition on her side, not to mention Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, the charming proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and Mma Makutsi her able assistant who never tires of telling people that she graduated with a mark of 97% from the Botswana Secretarial College.

Since her first appearance in 1998 Precious Ramotswe has become established as one of the most famous private detectives in world-literature by solving her cases through an innate wisdom and her understanding of human nature. She has featured in short stories as well as the full-length novels, children’s books, a TV film directed by the late Anthony Minghella followed by a beautiful series, more than 10 years of a returning radio drama plays on BBC Radio 4. And she is hoping – one day – to work her way into a musical.

Over the course of this very special year, Alexander is visiting readers in Sri Lanka, Dubai, Australia, the UK and America. He delights in sharing stories face-to-face and in September he will travel to Botswana with Belmond Travel to introduce readers to the country he loves. And fans have been asked by Prince Harry’s conservation charity, Rhino Conservation Botswana, to use the opportunity of the anniversary to raise awareness of their plight by helping to name a threatened Botswana rhino in honour of Precious Ramotswe.

All eighteen books in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are available now in paperback with a new volume, The Colours of All the Cattle, to be published in hardback later this year.

Praise for the series over the years:

‘Tolerance and humanity underpin the whole of this wonderful, hilarious, totally addictive series’ – Daily Mail

‘Enchanting … An inspiration to us all … The sweet, chuckling voice of Precious Ramotswe falls gentle on the ear’ – The New York Times Book Review

‘Blake may have been able to see the world in a grain of sand, but McCall Smith can encapsulate the human condition in a plate of stewed pumpkin. His talent is to see the good in small things’ – Sunday Times

‘There are some great books that this guy called Alexander McCall Smith put out that take place in Botswana… The first one is called The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I highly recommend them if you like to be happy’ ­ – Flea, from Red Hot Chilli Peppers

‘…In the world of Sandy McCall Smith, the sheer enjoyment of life ranks high’ – The Times

‘The beauty of the land, the people, the colours and smells leap off the page with such warm-hearted liveliness that you find yourself laughing and crying instead of, as so often, hardening your heart against the seeming hopelessness of an entire continent. For an author to entertain and instruct with such effortless simplicity is one thing, but to achieve this effect upon readers is remarkable. I can think of no author save Dickens who has achieved it, and no author now writing currently more deserving of an enormous audience’ – The New Statesman

written with grace and charm, just like the earlier books. But it is also strengthened by a new gravity: the message that Western nations – which tend to regard Africa as a hopeless mess – have in fact much to learn from Botswana … The “holding of hands, human hand in human hand”, urges McCall Smith, “could help, could make the world seem less broken’ – The Independent

‘these gentle stories of manners and morality have a clarity that is surely one of the reasons for their widespread appeal’ – Scotsman

‘These books, like their author, have charm. You cannot overstate the power of this—it’s the missing ingredient in contemporary fiction’ ­–The Guardian

‘McCall Smith’s saga is evolving into a tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.’ — Wall Street Journal

‘I find it impossible to think about these novels without smiling’ – Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

‘McCall Smith’s generous writing and dry humour, his gentleness and humanity, and his ability to evoke a place and a set of characters without caricature or condescension have endeared his books to readers’— New York Times

‘What is so fantastic about this material and why I was always so drawn to the books is that they are a celebration of what we might learn from Africa… The West is a mess; we are a neurotic society, self-absorbed, solipsistic, and greedy. We compete too much with each other and have no community. Look at Botswana and its dignity, friendliness and big-heartedness; the core of this itself is the reliance on community, debate and discussion’ – Anthony Minghella

‘She’s inspiring and smart and has this wonderful passion for life. She has a dream, and I love people with dreams. The book has struck a chord around the world because it contains no violence, guns or explosions. It shows that you don’t need those things to make a gripping story. It portrays someone who is living by her wit and her love for her country alone. That’s a rare bird these days’ – Actress and singer, Precious in the BBC?HBO film, Jill Scott

‘The breadth of his body of work vividly evokes places and characters who are infused with humanity, decency, wit and humour’–The National Arts Club citation

‘In Mma Ramotswe, [McCall Smith] minted one of the most memorable heroines in any modern fiction’ – Newsweek

‘[McCall Smith’s] style melts words into instant meaning and the music of all the novel’s principal voices is a chorus you cannot resist’– The Scotsman

Go on, celebrate, read a little…

Full list of titles now available in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series:

  • (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Special edition)
  • The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  • Tears of the Giraffe
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men
  • The Full Cupboard of Life
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness
  • The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
  • The Miracle at Speedy Motors
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club
  • The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
  • The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
  • The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
  • The Handsome Man’s Café
  • The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine
  • Precious and Grace
  • The House of Unexpected Sisters
  • The Colours of All the Cattle (due later this year)

For younger readers:

  • Precious and the Monkeys
  • Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill
  • Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion
  • Precious and the Zebra Necklace