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McCall Smith, Alexander

botswana little african series

(British, 1949– )

The success of this series about Botswana's only female detective, seems, on first glance, unlikely. There's little death, sex, or violence, the portly protagonist does little investigating (relying rather on woman's intuition and common sense), and the plots are intercut short stories. Glance again and the appeal is obvious. The style is undemanding, traditional values are reaffirmed, modish notions about the inherent superiority of women are peddled without altogether trashing men, and McCall Smith's Botswana is an African Shire in which Vicious Tribalism, Endemic Corruption, and Genocide don't get a look in. Confected by a Zimbabwean-born, Scottish academic who has taught at African universities, the series might (in less post-modern times) have been accused of cultural neo-colonialism, not to mention thinly-disguised Rousseauesque noble-savagery. But, if you're gullible (or just like to believe in fairies), don't let that stop you being charmed. Start with The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998).

Helen Fielding, Chinua Achebe, Agatha Christie  MH

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