Fans around the world adore the bestselling The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.
This year Alexander McCall Smith will publish the twentieth book in this series, so we thought now would be a good time for a refresher! Below is a list of the books in the series in order—read on for reminders of some of your favorite series moments and discover any books you may have missed.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.
Tears of the Giraffe
In the second book, Precious Ramotswe tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 percent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.
Morality for Beautiful Girls
In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Precious Ramotswe investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana. Yet her business is having money problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiance’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she discovers the reliable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is more complicated then he seems.
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
Mma Precious Ramotswe is content at the beginning of The Kalahari Typing School for Men. Her business is well established with many satisfied customers, and in her mid-thirties (“the finest age to be”) she has a house, two adopted children, a fine fiance. But, as always, there are troubles. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has not set the date for their marriage. Her able assistant, Mma Makutsi, wants a husband. And worse, a rival detective agency has opened in town—an agency that does not have the gentle approach to business that Mma Ramotswe’s does. But, of course, Precious will manage these things, as she always does, with her uncanny insight and her good heart.
The Full Cupboard of Life
Still engaged to the estimable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe understands that she should not put too much pressure on him, as he has other concerns, especially a hair-raising request from the ever persuasive Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Besides Mma Ramotswe herself has weighty matters on her mind. She has been approached by a wealthy lady to check up on several suitors. Are these men interested in the lady or just her money? This may be a difficult case, but it’s just the kind of problem Mma Ramotswe likes and she is, as we know, a very intuitive lady.
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Precious is busier than usual at the detective agency when she discovers an intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and—perhaps even more baffling—a pumpkin on her porch. Her associate, Mma Makutsi, also has a full plate. She’s taken up dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man with two left feet. And at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, where Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is already overburdened with work, one of his apprentices has run off with a wealthy older woman. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a difficult secret from her past.
Blue Shoes and Happiness
A new and rather too brusque advice columnist is appearing in the local paper. Then a cobra is found in the offices of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Recently, the Mokolodi Game Preserve manager feels an infectious fear spreading among his workers, and a local doctor may be falsifying blood pressure readings. To further complicate matters Grace Makutsi may have scared off her own fiance. Mma Ramotswe, however, is always up to the challenge. And Blue Shoes and Happiness will not fail to entertain Alexander McCall Smith’s oldest fans and newest converts with its wit, charm, and great good will.
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
There is rarely a dull moment in the life of Precious Ramotswe, and on Zebra Drive and Tlokweng Road many changes are afoot. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni wants be put in charge of a case involving an errant husband, and Mma Makutsi is considering leaving the agency, taking her near perfect score on the Botswana Secretarial College typing exam with her. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has been asked to investigate a series of unexpected deaths at the hospital in Mochudi. Along the way, she encounters other tricky mysteries, and once again displays her undying love for Botswana, a country of which she is justly proud.
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Under the endless skies of Botswana, there is always something Mma Ramotswe can do to help someone and here she finds herself assisting a woman looking for her family. The problem is the woman doesn’t know her real name or whether any of her family members are still alive. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi is the recipient of a beautiful new bed that causes more than a few sleepless nights. And, at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has come under the influence of a doctor promising a miracle cure for his daughter’s medical condition, which Mma Ramotswe finds hard to accept. Nonetheless, Precious Ramotswe handles these things in her usual compassionate and good-natured way, while always finding time for a cup of red bush tea.
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
In this installment in the endlessly entertaining series, Precious Ramotswe faces problems both personal and professional. The first is the potential demise of an old friend, her tiny white van. Recently it has developed a rather troubling knock, but she dare not consult the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for fear he may condemn the vehicle. Meanwhile, her talented assistant Mma Makutsi is plagued by the reappearance of her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who has taken a job at the Double Comfort Furniture store whose proprietor is none other than Phuti Radiphuti, Mma Makutsi’s fiance. Finally, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been hired to explain the unexpected losing streak of a local football club, the Kalahari Swoopers. But with Mma Ramotswe on the case, it seems certain that everything will be resolved satisfactorily.
The Double Comfort Safari Club
In this story, Precious Ramotswe deals with issues of mistaken identity and great fortune against the beautiful backdrop of Botswana’s remote and striking Okavango Delta. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi head to a safari camp to carry out a delicate mission on behalf of a former guest who has left one of the guides a large sum of money. But once they find their man, Precious begins to sense that something is not right. To make matters worse, shortly before their departure Mma Makutsi’s fiance, Phuti Radiphuti, suffers a debilitating accident, and when his aunt moves in to take care of him, she also pushes Mma Makutsi out of the picture. Could she be trying to break up the relationship? Finally, a local priest and his wife independently approach Mma Ramotswe with concerns of infidelity, creating a rather unusual and tricky situation. Nevertheless, Precious is confident that with a little patience, kindness, and good sense things will work out for the best, something that will delight her many fans.
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
As Mma Ramotswe investigates the deaths of cows at a cattle post outside Gaborone, she finds herself also pursuing other mysteries closer to home. One of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentices appears to have gotten a girl pregnant, and has run away to avoid marrying her. Meanwhile, Precious sees her beloved old van-sent to the junkyard long ago—trundling around the city again. Has the van been miraculously revived or is she hallucinating? Further complicating matters are Violet Sephotho’s newly launched campaign for a seat in Botswana’s parliament, and Grace Makutsi’s growing fears that she’ll never be able to marry her fiance Phuti Radiphuti if she can’t find the perfect pair of wedding shoes. As ever, Precious will draw on her trademark grace and wisdom as she helps unravel all these tangled threads.
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
Precious Ramotswe is very busy these days. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. Most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, the orphan farm’s respected matron, has been dismissed from her post. Mma Ramotswe is not about to rest when her friends are mistreated. Help arrives from an unexpected visitor. He is none other than the estimable Mr. Clovis Andersen, author of The Principles of Private Detection, the No. 1 Ladies’ prized manual. Together, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their colleague help right injustices that occur even in their beloved Botswana, and in the process discover something new about being a good detective.
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
Precious Ramotswe has her hands full with two puzzling cases. The first concerns a young man hoping to claim his inheritance at his uncle’s farm. The farmer’s lawyer fears that this self-professed nephew may be falsely impersonating the real heir, and asks Mma Ramotswe to look into his identity. The second involves the just-opened Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which has been shadowed by misfortune, from bad omens in the mail to swirling rumors that its products are dangerous. The salon’s proprietor fears that someone is trying to put her out of business—but who? Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has come to suspect that her intrepid associate Grace Makutsi is pregnant—though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing.
The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café
Over the years Mma Ramotswe has found many lost things, but never before has she been asked to help a woman find herself—until now. A kindhearted brother and sister have taken in a nameless woman with no memory of her own history or how she came to Botswana. It falls to Precious Ramotswe and her new co-director, Grace Makutsi, to discover the woman’s identity. Meanwhile, motherhood proves to be no obstacle to Mma Makutsi’s professional success, as she launches a new enterprise of her own: the Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe, a restaurant for Gaborone’s most fashionable diners. And next door, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is forced to make a choice that will directly affect not only Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, but the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency as well. With sympathy and indefatigable good humor, Mma Ramotswe and her friends see one another through these major changes and discover along the way what true friendship really means.
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine
Precious Ramotswe, the esteemed proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, now faces her greatest challenge yet: a vacation! Business is slow at the agency—so slow in fact that, for the first time in her distinguished career, Mma Ramotswe has reluctantly agreed to take a holiday. The week of uninterrupted peace is cut short, however, when she meets Samuel, a wayward young boy with a troubled past. Moreover, Mma Ramotswe can’t help but wonder how the agency is faring in her absence. Her worries grow when she discovers that Mma Makutsi is handling a rather delicate case.
Ultimately, the situation will require Mma Ramotswe to draw upon her kindness, generosity, and good sense, and will serve to remind them all that ordinary human failings should be treated with a large helping of charity and compassion.
Precious and Grace
Mma Makutsi, who has recently been promoted to co-director, has been encouraging Mma Ramotswe to update to more modern office practices. An unusual case, however, will require both of them to turn their attention firmly to the past. A young Canadian woman who spent her early childhood in Botswana requests the agency’s help in recalling her life there. Precious and Grace set out to locate the house that the woman lived in and the caretaker who looked after her many years ago. But when the journey takes an unexpected turn, they are forced to consider whether some things are better left in the past. Mma Ramotswe dispenses help and sympathy with the graciousness and warmth for which she is so well known, and everyone involved is led to surprising insights into the healing power of compassion, forgiveness, and new beginnings.
The House of Unexpected Sisters
Mr. Polopetsi tells Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi a troubling story about a woman who has been wrongly dismissed from her job. Never one to let an injustice go unanswered, Mma Ramotswe begins to investigate, but she soon discovers that the case is more complicated than she initially suspected. Other surprises await our intrepid proprietress. Mma Ramotswe happens to hear of a local nurse named Mingie Ramotswe. Who is this mystery lady? Then she finds out that an unpleasant figure from her past has recently been spotted in town. With the generosity and good humor that guide all her endeavors, Mma Ramotswe will untangle these questions, ultimately bringing to light important truths about friendship and family—both the one you’re born with and the one you choose.
The Colors of All the Cattle
In this installment Precious Ramotswe finds herself running for office—much to her dismay. When Mma Potokwane suggests to Mma Ramotswe that she run for a seat on the Gaborone City Council, Mma Ramotswe is at first reluctant. But when she learns that developers plan to build the flashy Big Fun Hotel next to a graveyard, she allows herself to be persuaded. Her opponent is none other than Mma Makutsi’s old nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who is in the pocket of the hotel developers. Although Violet is intent on using every trick in the book to secure her election, Mma Ramotswe refuses to guarantee anything beyond what she can deliver; hence her slogan: “I can’t promise anything—but I shall do my best.” Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has acquired a new client: one of her late father’s old friends, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Charlie volunteers to be the lead investigator on the case to prove he’s ready to be more than an apprentice, as well as to impress a new girlfriend. With Charlie’s inquiries landing him in hot water and Election Day fast approaching, Mma Ramotswe will have to call upon her good humor and generosity of spirit to help the community navigate these thorny issues, and to prove that honesty and compassion will always carry the day.
To the Land of Long Lost Friends
In the latest book in the widely beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Precious Ramotswe takes on a case for a childhood acquaintance and finds that family relationships are always a tricky proposition—even for Botswana’s premier female detective.
Mma Ramotswe has reconnected with an old friend who has been having problems with her daughter. Though Precious feels compelled to lend a hand, she discovers that getting involved in family affairs is always a delicate affair. The young woman appears to be involved with a charismatic preacher. But are his ministrations entirely of a godly nature?
Elsewhere, Charlie is also struggling with a tricky matter of the heart. He wishes to propose to his girlfriend, Queenie-Queenie, but he’s struggling to come up with a bride price that will impress her father. When Queenie-Queenie’s brother offers to help by giving him a job, the offer may not be quite what Charlie expected.
As always, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni will offer wise counsel, Mma Makutsi will weigh in with her opinions, and Mma Potokwane will be there with her welcome fruit cake. But in the end it will be up to Mma Ramotswe to reflect on love, family, and the nature of men and women in order to resolve family dramas and remind everyone about all the good things they have in life—so many, in fact, that it would take far too long to count them.