Oline H. Cogdill


Jill Scott as Precious; Keith Bernstein photo/HBO

If the advance screenings and sneak peeks I’ve seen are any indication, HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency should be a winner.

Based on the lovely, yet provocative novels by Alexander McCall Smith, the HBO series will feature the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, the Botswanan divorcee turned private investigator.

American singer Jill Scott seems perfect for the role of Precious. Scott captures Precious’ intelligence, her independence, her confidence, her refusal to submit to conventional thought.

Precious knows that she won’t make much money as a private investigator. But then no one else does either in the poor, dusty neighborhood of Gaborone.

But Precious knows that poor people have the same problems as the more affluent, but less opportunities to get help. Precious is there to help the “lost, the frightened.” She knows she can change people’s lives.

While there is an optimistic feel to Precious and her career choice, the series, like the novels, also delves into the darker side. Precious was an abused wife who lost her baby because of her husband’s beatings.

In addition to the wonderful Scott, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose makes a great turn as the whip-smart assistant, proud of making the highest grade at her business school. Rose’s plain clothes and thick glasses are a huge change from her role in Dreamgirls.

Except for the addition of a new character, B.K., The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series seems fairly faithful to the novels.

At least the clips I saw were right on target.

So, readers, what do you think of HBO’s new series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency?

This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, March 2009.