HAVING an uncommon surname is just one of many things distinguishing the “traditionally built” Mma Precious Ramotswe as a noteworthy Botswanan woman.
Another is running the country’s only all-female investigation outfit, an operation based on the outskirts of the capital, Gaborone: the nationally famous No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
It is to this agency that Precious’s fellow Batswana turn when a husband is suspected of cheating, a debt is not paid, a loved one vanishes – or, in the latest instance, a sister of a colleague of an associate is dismissed from her role as a sales assistant for allegedly insulting a customer.
The now-unemployed Charity is adamant there was no rudeness, leading Precious and her second-in-command, Mma Grace Makutsi, to suspect the employer might have concocted an excuse for the firing. Is he going to give the position to a mistress, perhaps?
As the two begin their covert sleuthing a longstanding nemesis reappears: Violet Sephoto, Grace’s former classmate at the Botswana Secretarial College. Is this shameless woman with her too-short skirts, her deplorable student record and her focus on attracting male attention somehow behind Charity’s dismissal?
Before that question can be answered a third conundrum arises: an unfamiliar Ramotswe, a nurse, is mentioned in a newspaper report.
Precious has never heard of this apparent relative. Is she a legitimate family member or an imposter passing herself off as a Ramotswe for unscrupulous reasons?
With Grace on the case of the seemingly unjustified layoff, Precious focuses on her own mystery and how it might relate to her beloved father, the now-late cattle baron Obed Ramotswe.
As his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, author Alexander McCall Smith is visiting Australia. He will speak about his latest releases and favourite characters in Melbourne and Warrnambool next week.