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Old 02-20-2017, 01:24 AM   #1
issybird
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February 2017 Discussion: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

The time has come to discuss the February 2017 MobileRead Book Club selection, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. What did you think?

[Not to worry. Tom's still the big cheese. ]
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Old 02-20-2017, 12:09 PM   #2
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I'm still finishing up my re-read of this book, but I'm finding that it is still "slow to start". But it grows on you if you let it, and by the time you're well into the book, Mme Ramotswe and the other characters in the book take on a real life of their own. And one that I care about. This, I think, is the genius of the book. Certainly NOT it's plot, or perhaps total lack of one. It's in the scenery building and character building that this book charms. And it does still charm me, though it is less conducive to re-reading than some of my other favourites.

I'll have more comments later, when I get back from a 3 day trip I need to take and can settle down.
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Old 02-20-2017, 12:32 PM   #3
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I found this slow to start. At first it seemed like a disjointed book of short stories. It did eventually come together. Overall, for a mystery novel, I found it way too soft. There was no real plot. It was all about the characters. I would have preferred more plot. The world building was OK. But the mystery part was lacking big time.
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Old 02-20-2017, 01:26 PM   #4
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Well, in one sense you're right, Jon. As a pure mystery, it isn't. Because it's NOT about plot at all. But it's still nominally a mystery, and I enjoyed it on re-read. Though perhaps not quite as much as the first time.

One thing that it did a very good job of was reminding me of Africa. Even though we never got to Botswana (only Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania), there was still very much of the landscape, people, colours, sounds, smells, etc., that was quite evocative. Certainly one of the reasons I liked these books.

As a point of information for those considering continuing with the series, the characters continue to grow and change and our understanding of them deepens as well. And, of course, new characters find their way into the stories. So if you enjoyed the character building in this book, by all means continue with the series. If you can't enjoy a book without much of a plot, you won't enjoy these.
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Old 02-20-2017, 01:50 PM   #5
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Given that this is a book club book and was supposed to be a mystery, it fell flat. I was wanting to read a book that was a true mystery. This is a book that was very weak in the mystery plot. A good mystery is a story where we get into it and try to figure things out before they are revealed. There was no chance to get into the mystery and try to figure things out as the story progressed.

So as a mystery, it was rather poor and it never should have won as it's not really a mystery.
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Old 02-20-2017, 02:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
There was no chance to get into the mystery and try to figure things out as the story progressed.
So it's like many of the Sherlock Holmes stories then?

After some of your comments in prior to this thread going live I expected that this would end up more like the Sherlock Holmes stories which were more along the lines of character studies of Holmes (and Watson) than true mysteries. I wasn't disappointed in that.

For this story, I wasn't interested in the sections about her father, they didn't add much I thought, and I thought that the major mystery of the missing boy was very weakly done. Yes, she found the boy and returned him to his father, but her sleuthing turned out to be pure luck since the witch doctor who had kidnapped him hadn't actually done anything to him (in that way).

Other than those items, I quite enjoyed this as a whole. Yes, the mystery wasn't strong but the writing was excellent and I enjoyed Mme Ramotswe.
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Old 02-20-2017, 04:37 PM   #7
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I had mixed feelings about this and abandoned it halfway through.

The imagery was excellent; McCall Smith's love for the land was manifest. However, I find his tone toward the characters to be paternalistic, If not outright patronizing. I found it increasingly offputting and since the story, while pleasant, was only mildly entertaining, I decided to give up on it. More plot might have kept me going despite the discomfort engendered by this white male author's attitude toward his characters. He portrayed them as "natives," with all that implies, and not as intelligent people.
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Old 02-20-2017, 06:59 PM   #8
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This sure wasn't the cozy mystery I envisioned it to be when I voted for it. I had envisioned a group of amateur sleuths who were equal parts Murder She Wrote and knitting circle. The location of Africa and a heroine who was a woman of color was unexpected, but interesting. This was truly a book that matched to its own beat, and sometimes that worked and sometimes it fell short. The mysteries were thin, leaving the book to rely almost exclusively on the personality of Mma Ramotswe. Fortunately she was an interesting and likable character, and did much to redeem the book. Her unexpected decision at the book's end to finally accept J.L.B. Matekoni's offer of marriage seemed to be the very definition of contrived, however.
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Old 02-20-2017, 07:52 PM   #9
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All of the back story was boring. It did nothing to advance the plot. all it did was detract from the plot. I expected more crime solving. it was very weak in this regard. I'm glad I got this from Overdrive as I would have felt ripped out had I bought it. I was thinking of stopping it, but given that by the time I decided to stop, I was about 1/2 in and it wasn't that much more to go I decided to finish it.

Next time we get a specific category (PCML doesn't count as it's not specific at all), let's make sure whatever books are nominated truly fit the category and not sort or fit. This book barely fit the mystery category. It was just way too weak.
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