Cover image of "The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine," a novel about lady detectives

Several years ago the BBC and HBO co-produced a short-lived television series based on the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. If your impression of those books and the characters featured in them was colored by watching TV, please forget everything you saw and read the books themselves. There are few examples anywhere in adult literature that can match the charm and insight that Alexander McCall Smith brings to these lovely little books.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine is the sixteenth novel in the series, and it’s by no means the best. But it’s as good a place as any to gain entry to the unforgettable world of Mma Precious Ramotswe, the endlessly wise proprietor of the agency; Mma Grace Makutsi, her exasperating sidekick; Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, “the best mechanic in all Botswana” and owner of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors repair shop; and the priceless recurring secondary characters in the ensemble.

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #16) by Alexander McCall Smith ★★★★☆

Crime takes a holiday

Almost invariably, detective fiction is about crime and the brave and clever investigators who bring malefactors to justice, often risking their lives in the process. But don’t expect any of that from the #1 Ladies Detective Agency. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine and its predecessors in the series are all about Botswana, its culture, its history, and its commanding natural setting. More often than not, the “crime” that the agency is hired to solve turns out to be a false rumor, a family squabble, or one of the frequent shenanigans of Violet Sephotho, the scheming young woman who is the sworn enemy of Mma Makutsi and the bane of the agency.

The home of the famous lady detectives

Just in case you can’t place Botswana on the globe, look for the huge chunk of territory just north of the nation of South Africa midway between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Once upon a time it was a British protectorate called Bechuanaland. The country gained its independence in 1966. Unlike so many of its neighbors, Botswana has been remarkably peaceful and a paragon of democracy — singular accomplishments that are celebrated in the #1 Ladies Detective series.

About the author

Alexander McCall Smith taught medical law for many years at the celebrated University of Edinburgh. He is remarkably prolific writer, the author of several additional series of novels, five series of children’s books, and thirteen books of nonfiction. You might wonder when he sleeps. I do.

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