The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith: A review

I have been faithfully reading the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series for many years now, but it had been more than two-and-a-half years since I last read one. The time seemed propitious to pick it up once again.

A series called "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" might sound like mysteries featuring women detectives and, indeed, on the surface that is how it is styled. But, in fact, it is more philosophy than mystery. McCall Smith has another series that he writes, set in Scotland, that actually features a philosopher named Isabel Dalhousie, but this series, set in Botswana, might just as correctly be called the "No. 1 Ladies' Philosophers." 

The main philosopher/detective is Precious Ramotswe and she is ably assisted by her partner, Grace Makutsi. The starting point of each story involves their being presented with a puzzle surrounding some simple everyday problem. It might be someone pilfering from his employer, a straying husband or wife, an orphan trying to trace his family, or, as in this case, someone unjustly fired from her job.

The story is brought to them by their part-time assistant, the meek and mild Mr. Polopetsi. He relates to them the tale of a woman who has been dismissed from her job at an office furniture store because she was rude to an important customer. She claims that the incident never happened, but she was summarily dismissed without a chance to defend herself.

Appalled at the idea of such injustice occurring in her beloved Botswana, Mma Ramotswe begins her investigation and discovers a tangled web of industrial intrigue with a familiar nemesis as the source of it. She must then devise a scheme to restore the wronged employee, while at the same time preserving the dignity of everyone involved.

While engaged in this endeavor, things are happening in her personal life that cause tension, consternation, and, of course, eventually, resolution. There is always resolution and release from tension in these stories. They are a bit like a warm bubble bath after a hard day of gardening. That's why I keep returning to them year after year.

Alexander McCall Smith's love and admiration for Botswana and the culture of its people shine brightly in all these stories. He lived there for some years and he writes in the cadence of the speech of the region, which lends an air of verisimilitude to the tales. As always, the defining mark of the series is the generosity of spirit of the characters and the good humor and value on friendship that mark their days. Reading one of the books offers much needed relief from the venality that seems too much with us in our daily lives.  

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


  1. I might try one of these again. I just didn't get it when I read the first one. Cheers

    1. They are gentle stories about gentle people - not at all what one envisions when thinking of a mystery novel.

  2. Sounds like another successful entry in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. It's so good to read, from time to time, books that feel "like a warm bubble bath after a hard day of gardening…" That's the perfect image for those comforting reads. My go-to author for that is Susanna Kearsley. For me, her novels are as warm and pleasant as an apple pie. ;-)

    1. I have to give Kearsley a try at some point. I've never read any of her books.

  3. I am going to consider this author the next time I need a warm bubble bath after a hard day in the world!

    1. They are quick and easy reads, rather YA in style and content.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Poetry Sunday: Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver

Overboard by Sara Paretsky: A review

The Investigator by John Sandford: A review