Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #17)

Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #17)

by Alexander McCall Smith


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Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series 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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101972816
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/30/2017
Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #17
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 73,418
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.71(d)

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books and of a number of other series of novels. His works have been translated into over forty languages and have been best-sellers throughout the world. He lives in Scotland.


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


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Copyright © 2017 Alexander McCall Smith.
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Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith. In this latest installment of the beloved and best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi help a young woman on a quest to find someone from her past.

1. McCall Smith says friendship is at the heart of Precious and Grace and that, “Friendship is one of the greatest of literary themes, but hard to write about. Embarrassment, sentiment, get in the way.” (March 2016, Twitter @McCallSmith) What do you think about this? What other books have you loved with friendship as the primary theme? How does the friendship between the two main characters in those books compare to the friendship between Precious and Grace?

2. Describe Mma Ramotswe’s relationship with other people in the novel. How is it similar or different to her friendship with Grace?

3. This title is different from the titles of other No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series in length and tone. How is it different and why?

4. Why do you think the author starts off the novel with Mma Makutsi telling some white lies about the detective agency? Why doesn’t Mma Ramotswe reprimand or correct her despite feeling uncomfortable hearing them? What would you have done if you were Mma Ramotswe?

5. How does this tie into Mma Makutsi herself later in the novel criticizing liars and saying, “The country must be full of liars” (p. 98)?

6. Discuss the chapter titles of this book. What does the first one, “A Good Friend Is Like a Hill” mean or refer to? And how about “Trust Your Nose”? Can you think up alternate chapter titles for any of the chapters?

7. Describe the unusual case of Susan Peters. How would you have gone about finding her former nanny? How do you feel about the way the case was resolved? What is the lesson Mma Ramotswe shares at the close of the case?

8. Why does Mma Ramotswe enjoy reminiscing and talking about the past and how it was “the time of cattle; the time of bicycles rather than cars; the time when the arrival of the day’s single plane was an event; the time of politeness and courtesy.” (p. 33)? How do these reminiscences fit in with the themes of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series?

9. Do you agree with the advice of Clovis Anderson, “Be very careful of anything that looks too good to be true. Because if it looks too good to be true, that’s probably because that’s exactly what it is!” (p. 58)? Do you have any examples of this from your own life? What is the importance of Clovis Anderson for Mma Ramotswe? Why does she like and respect him so much?

10. Another theme of this novel is that of seeing the world from another’s perspective. “Tall people could forget that the world might look quite different if you were short; and of course well-off people had a marked tendency to forget how things might look if you were poor. We have to remind ourselves, she thought. We have to remind ourselves how the world looked when viewed from elsewhere” (p. 64). Discuss this theme in terms of the book and the entire series.

11. In concert with seeing from another’s perspective is accepting people who see things differently than you: “Once you understood that, then you could accept the people themselves as they were and not try to change them. What was even more important, perhaps, was that you could love those people who looked at things so differently, because you realized that they were not trying to make life hard for you by being what they were, but were simply doing their best” (p. 90). How do these thoughts Mma Ramotswe is contemplating connect with Charlie and with the events in the book? How does it help her solve Susan’s case?

12. What is the issue with Mr. Polopetsi in this novel? How does it get resolved?

13. “Nothing was cheap, she thought, even the things that were said to be free. Love itself was not cheap . . . Freedom was not cheap—its price tag was watchfulness and courage. Even fresh air, the air we breathed each day, had its price tag, it seemed” (p. 78). Discuss this quote and talk about whether or not you agree with it. How does it relate to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and Mma Ramotswe? How does it relate to your life?

14. What do you think of the Bishop’s sermon on forgiveness and retribution? What is his message? What does he mean by saying “when we punish somebody, we are often just punishing ourselves” (p. 212)?

15. Comment on Mma Ramotswe’s thoughts on forgiveness at the end of the book, “Anger, and its close cousin revenge, had come off second best to forgiveness and to the realization that current unhappiness is not always helped by delving into the past, but can be dealt with by other, more productive means” (p. 226).

16. What have you learned, gained or taken away from reading this book? What do you think Alexander McCall Smith wants to share by writing these books? What would you want to share and write about if you wrote a book?

Customer Reviews

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Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #17) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The seventeenth book in this series is great, just like all sixteen of the others. I have read every one of his novels and love them all. His stories always give me a relaxed, happy feeling. He reminds me that there is still good in the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book and it's message is incredibly timely. Once again I am in total awe of the profound depth Alexander reaches with his characters. My only regret is knowing how long the wait will be until I will meet up with Mma Ramotswe in the telling of next adventures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Precious and Grace is the seventeenth full length novel in the popular No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Scottish author, Alexander McCall Smith. With Grace Makutsi’s status in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency elevated and Precious Ramotswe no longer being her boss, as such, Mma Ramotswe finds her considerable skills of diplomacy and tact are more often required in their case discussions and client meetings. This is indeed so when a client who has travelled from Canada presents with a somewhat unusual request: Precious and Grace agree to approach the case from quite different angles. Both get results, and both are surprised. But this is not Mma Ramotswe’s only concern: garage mechanic, Fanwell has taken on the care of a dog without the space or means to do so; Mr Polopetsi is involved in a business scheme that has alarm bells ringing in Mma Ramotswe’s head; and it seems that Mma Makutsi’s nemesis, Violet Sepotho is up to more tricks. As always, Mma Ramotswe muses on the problems and challenges of life, making wise observations and comments to those near and dear. She philosophises about people we know: family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even enemies; about the past; about trusting one’s feelings; about whether animals have souls; about lists. “Lists, she thought, are the stories of our lives; they give a picture of who we are and what we do every day” “…she reflected on the possibility that young men were a completely alien breed, and that however much you tried to get them to see things the way you saw them, you were destined to fail. And that perhaps part of the secret of leading a life in which you would not always be worrying about things, or complaining about them, was to accept that there were people who just saw things differently from you and always would” On souls, Mr J L B Matekoni has an opinion: “Old cars have souls. Modern cars … well, I think the Japanese don’t put souls into them. They save money, perhaps, by not putting in a soul” This instalment sees some character development in Fanwell, Charlie and even the dreadful Violet. Apart from the rather determined dog, this instalment also features Mr J L B Matekoni’s favourite stew, a puff adder, fat cakes (and some creative rationalising surrounding them), a newspaper story featuring Grace Makutsi, and the obligatory fruit cake. Mma Makutsi’s garrulous shoes are noticeably absent. Another delightful dose of Bostwana. Precious thoughts on the past: “There were too many people who took the view that the past was bad, that we should rid ourselves of all traces of it as soon as possible. But the past was not bad; some of it may have been less than perfect – there had been cruelties then that we had done well to get rid of – but there had also been plenty of good things. there had been the old Botswana ways, the courtesy and the kindness; there had been the attitude that you should find time for other people and not always be in a desperate rush; there had been the belief that you should listen to other people, should talk to them, rather than spend all your time fiddling with your electronic gadgets; there had been the view that it was a good thing to sit under a tree sometimes and look up at the sky and think about cattle or pumpkins or non-electric things like that”
TN1796 More than 1 year ago
Seventeen books in, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency keeps rolling along. Much like Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's "traditionally built" sleuth, this series is so consistent that each new volume feels like an annual visit with old friends. While McCall Smith's writing style is subtle, he does have a point: the need for forgiveness. This novel shows the need to live one's life without anger or the need for revenge. Hired by a young Canadian woman to find her childhood home and caretaker in Africa, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi find a mystery better left unsolved. They also debate whether people can be born bad and the need for second chances. A remarkable achievement for a popular novel in a series full of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is entertaining, uplifting and has the charm that sold me on this series. A fun read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book as much as the first ones I read; looking forward to reading the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a charming series. I hope they keep coming!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
McCall Smith did not disappoint with his latest in the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. With maybe more than usual interior dialogue from Precious Ramotswe, we learn the importance of forgiveness as she goes about finding answers to her own working relationship with Grace Makutsi and inquiries that include finding a Canadian woman's African home and friends, helping Mr. Polopetsi out of an unwise money-making scheme, and finding a home for Fanwell's stray dog.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago