From my bookcase: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Precious Ramotswe is a large lady, so much so that her elderly car has developed a permanent dip on the driver’s side. But the heroine of Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series can make an advantage of any disadvantage. She is, she explains, full of national pride, ‘a Lady of Traditional Build’. All the other ladies and gentlemen – the Mmas and Rras of McCall Smith’s fictional Botswana – perfectly understand this distinction.

When her father dies she is left a little money and, having escaped from her no-good husband, the handsome but wicked musician Note Makoti – who will resurface later in the series to torment her – Precious decides to set up a detective agency. She names it The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, something she can legitimately do as is the only ladies detective agency in Botswana.

Imaginative business names are a feature of the series and part of the ongoing entertainment. Some of my favourites are Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, The Double Comfort Safari Club and – best of all in my view – the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon.

I have never visited the real Botswana and am never likely to, and so I can continue to enjoy the comforting illusion that Botswana is an earthly paradise, the most civilised, the most beautiful, the most fertile place on earth, and filled with the loveliest and kindest of people, as Mma Ramotswe believes. She is naturally positive and has a knack for solving the everyday problems of her fellow Batswana with a combination of luck, common sense and excellent people skills.


As the series goes on we are introduced to a huge cast of eccentric characters. Among others there are Mma Ramotswe’s second husband Mr J L B Matekoni, and her spikey and scarily ambitious sidekick Grace Makutsi – she of the unfortunate skin, the big glasses and the down-at-heel background in an out-of-the-way village, who conducts an ongoing conversation with her shoes. There is Violet Sephotho, that ‘Jezebel’ from secretarial college; there are Grace’s eventual husband Phuti Radiphuti and her eventual baby, the impressively named Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti. If you are one of the few people on the planet haven’t come across this series or seen the TV version, give it a go. You’ll probably love it. I say probably because there are people out there who don’t like Harry Potter, so anything is possible.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is number 10 in a series of 16, and very shortly to be 17 for, I have just discovered, the latest in the series is actually due for publication tomorrow, the 7th of September. Now there’s a coincidence! Unfortunately I am going to have to wait until the cheaper and more convenient paperback/second-hand version comes out in six months or so, but at least I know it’s out there, and waiting … It’s called:



11 thoughts on “From my bookcase: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: Alexander McCall Smith

  1. My husband detested reading (“No time!!”) until he was 50 and had freshly laid himself up in hospital. Since then, and through numerous other hospitalizations, he’s forever recommending a book to someone. Unfortunately, he’s a dyed in the wool civil engineer of a guy, so he sets up each comma while not quite remembering subjects’ names; my eyes glaze and jaws go slack, but some of your review sounded SO familiar, I went and checked: Sure enough, he’s reading “Precious and Grace!” I guess I might like to read it after all! Though I think I’d like to start at the beginning of the Series. Did you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, yes I did start at the beginning of the series and would recommend that, too. They are very quick to read.

      Although each book is more or less complete in itself there is also a progression going on in the characters lives and relationship to one another, and the books are as much if not more about the characters and the country as the two or three little detective cases each book contains. 🙂

      I love the idea of your husband being a ‘dyed in the wool civil engineer of a guy’.

      How weird. I just went on Amazon to pre-order the paperback version of the new one and realised there were two of the old ones I needed to catch up with. Have just ordered Precious and Grace.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice when you discover one book by accident and then realise that there are many others in the series for you to collect.

      Mum used to read all the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books and I was constantly having to order them for her from Amazon. Then of course I couldn’t let her pay me for them, they ended up as presents, and I ended up buying the whole series (up to that point) twice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it’s hard to take money from our mothers, isn’t it? Particularly when we know they don’t have it to give. You are a good daughter!
    (And the reverse side of the coin: I hate it when I find a new author I love and discover that I am reading her very first book! I want to know that there’s a whole bunch of others out there that I can read next!)

    Liked by 1 person

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