The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a marvelous gem from the past

Jill Scott in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a 16 year old television series, is streaming now on Max. If you’ve never seen it, I suggest you watch it. Even if you saw it before, watch it again. It’s based on the marvelous books by Alexander McCall Smith. If you haven’t read the books, I suggest you read them, too. The stories told in this series are some of the most beautiful and charming tales ever told.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency features Precious Ramotswe (Jill Scott) as the lead character. Jill Scott is perfect in this role. Set in Botswana (a nation in Southern Africa), Precious has enough money from the sale of her late father’s cattle to move into the capital city of Gaborone. She buys a small house on Zebra Lane and finds a derelict building where she will open the first ever women’s detective agency in Botswana.

Idris Elba and Jill Scott in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

There are seven episodes. The first is a full length pilot movie of an hour and a half. We meet Precious and the people who will revolve around her as she struggles to set up a business and find clients. David Oyelowo and Idris Elba guest star in episode 1. Later in the season other familiar faces such as CCH Pounder and Pearl Thusi join as guests.

Lucian Msamati in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The first friend Precious makes in her new home is JLB Matekoni (Lucian Msamati). He is the mechanic who will keep her ancient white van running as she bumps around the unpaved and dusty countryside investigating cases. JLB also falls in love with Precious. Very early in the series he asks her to marry him and she refuses.

Part of her problem in her relationship with JLB is a trumpet player from her past, Note Makati (Colin Salmon). From flashbacks, we slowly learn about the trouble Note caused her in the past and how he continues to trouble her life now.

The third main character is an absolutely fabulous Anika Noni Rose as Grace Makutsi. She becomes the secretary/assistant for Precious. The other regular in the series is BK (Desmond Dube), a flamboyantly gay man who does hair in a building near the detective agency.

All four of these characters are involved in solving cases in one way or another as the series proceeds.

Obviously, the series is wrapped around themes of feminism and women’s place in society. The treatment of women by violent men is examined in numerous ways, including in Precious’ own life. Other thematic elements deal with HIV, orphans, and the African style of justice. Americans want to punish people. But the African heart shown here isn’t so much about punishment as regret, retribution, and change. The cases Precious investigates range from cheating spouses, mysterious burglaries, mysterious deaths, to lost children and stolen cars.

The series ends when Precious is finally able to agree to marry JLB. But the books continue further into their story as they become a couple, raise foster children, see Grace Makutsi though her problems, and carry on solving mysteries. There are 23 books in the series of novels.

The television series could have gone on much longer, but the few episodes we have are a wonderful watch. If you take a look at it, please share your thoughts on this series.

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