The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the second book I’ve read by Alexander McCall Smith; the first was The Sunday Philosophy Club, which I reviewed in March. I had actually heard only of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, but when I was looking at the books by him at the library in March, I thought The Sunday Philosophy Club sounded more interesting. Since I enjoyed that book, and I knew that this book was the one that made him well-known, I figured I would probably enjoy it as well. I was right, but the book was not quite like what I expected.
For some reason, I expected the detective agency to consist of several female detectives who worked together and solved mysteries. However, the detective agency for which the book is named is run by a single woman, who is quite a character. The book is more about her than about mysteries. McCall Smith starts off telling us about her childhood and how she came to open a detective agency. There is not just one mystery that she solves during the book; rather she takes on and resolves a variety of cases during the book. It felt more like a snapshot of her life than a mystery novel.
The characters and setting were interesting and well-described, and the story and writing were engaging, so overall I would certainly consider it a good book. However, it was not especially memorable for me, and I don’t think I liked it quite as much as The Sunday Philosophy Club. I do look forward to reading more books by Alexander McCall Smith, however, as they have a certain uniqueness to them.