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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Priest, Jack: Gecko | Main | Koontz, Dean: The Husband »

McCall Smith, Alexander: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

  

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Anchor Books © 2002 (orig. pub. 1998), 235 pages
4.5 stars

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, first published in 1998, is the first in Alexander McCall Smith's acclaimed Botswana series. (See my review of Blue Shoes and Happiness, the seventh book in the series.) Precious Ramotswe is the lady detective behind the book's title. She opened her agency with money inherited from her father, Obed Ramotswe. In this first installment we learn about Obed's life--he worked for years in South Africa's mines, saved his money, and later invested in cattle--and also about Mma Ramotswe's early history. ("Mma,"pronounced "mah," is a term of respect that appears throughout the book.) She grew up in Mochudi, raised by her father and a cousin. Against her father's wishes she leapt into an unhappy marriage that left her alone and grieving her only child's death in infancy. It's an unhappy chapter in Mma Ramotswe's life, but it packs meat onto her character: she is not all homespun goodness, that is, but was capable in her youth of great folly, and what wisdom she has was hard won. The book offers an account of Mma Ramotswe's earliest cases, which she solves with legwork and good sense and the occasional help of her friends, in particular Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni, the proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe is not the sort of detective one calls upon to solve grand crimes, but neither are all of her cases trivial. In addition to dealing with a client's wayward daughter, for example, and a doctor's worry about his colleague's competency, she is concerned throughout this book with the case of a missing eleven-year-old boy. The story of his disappearance and of her involvement in the case is woven throughout the book. 

[INSET TEXT: It's an unhappy chapter in Mma Ramotswe's life, but it packs meat onto her character: she is not all homespun goodness, that is, but was capable in her youth of great folly, and what wisdom she has was hard won.] McCall Smith's series is not plot-driven. Mma Ramotswe's cases give the books their framework, but the focus is on Mma Ramotswe's character and on the country of Botswana itself: the setting of McCall Smith's books is at least as important to the stories as his protagonist. But although one doesn't think of the books primarily as mysteries, they are in fact good cozies, so the books can be enjoyed on that score as well.

If you haven't yet stumbled on McCall Smith's series, you have yet to experience the singular joy of slipping into Mma Ramotswe's world. There is something soothing about the experience, and I'm not sure how the author achieves this magic: the simplicity of his language, perhaps, or of his characters' ethos. At any rate, the books are a pleasure to be savored.

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Comments

1.

I absolutely love these books and the characters in them. They are some of my favorite things that I've read in the last year or two.

2.

Aren't they great? I almost feel like diving right into the next one, but I won't. You should read his German philology series too. He's such a good writer.

3.

Good review, Debra. It takes me back to when I read this book, which I, too, loved, having been recommended it by an old friend at work who always passed on her mystery books to me after she had finished them -- hence I read a lot of books like this one that I would not otherwise have found independently. I very much enjoyed this series, and have a special additional reason to like it: the book you have just reviewed was the first "adult" book that Cathy and I both read (one after the other) and discussed together-- quite a landmark!

4.

Thank you, Maxine! Actually, I can see that these would be very good for that age group. I wonder if I could interest Rebecca.... Since middle school started she's been reading a lot more and is no longer scared off by longer reads. She shouldn't have been before, because she's a good reader, but she was. She's currently reading something she's enjoying and which I may wind up reading too, The Name of This Book is Secret--which looks like it has a Lemony Snicket-ishness to it.

5.

I've got all three of the German philology books, so maybe I'll move them up on my to be read list and read them after the zombie novels I'm reading. Should be a nice segue way. LOL

6.

Thanks for this review, I think I might pick up a copy of this book...

7.

Thanks for stopping by, Cass. I hope you like the book if you do read it.

And Kymberlie, let us know what you think of Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld! One great thing about those books is they're so short. Sometimes you just want to read a book really fast.

8.

I really enjoy this series, but I wasn't a fan of the Isabella Dalhoussie books. Have you listened to the audio books? I had no idea just how long you hold that double m in Mma until I heard it on cd. The audio is really a treat.

9.

I haven't heard them, no. Is it something like, Mmmma? Actually, I'm curious about whether I'm pronouncing Ramotswe correctly in my head, too.

10.

I loved the first book so much, I read and blogged about the entire series. Nine books in all!




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.