Alexander McCall Smith ‘ The Precious Ramotswe books
It was the colourful book covers that first drew me in. I’m not sure if they come free with the purchase of a travelcard, but everyone on the tube seemed to be reading Alexander McCall Smith.

The stories revolve around Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s first and only private lady detective. Plots weave in and out and are ultimately solved by Mma Ramotswe’s shrewd judge of human behaviour. Magic and charms bubble just below the surface and enticing descriptions of Africa fill the gaps.

Change is the underlying theme throughout the series with characters looking back through rose tints to more innocent days. Menace hovers in the background in the form of AIDS, but never casts too long a shadow over the storylines.

The author is based in Edinburgh but was born in colonial southern Africa and has worked throughout the sub-continent. He is also a lecturer and if you didn’t know that, you’d certainly guess it from his photograph.

There are currently four books in the series, although success will undoubtedly ensure many more. This isn’t challenging fiction but the fun is all in the characterisation of a small community and the interplay of adulterers and adulterees under a baking sun.

Most of all, the books made me want to visit Botswana and when you’re squashed in some fat bloke’s armpit on the Northern Line, Botswana sounds ideal.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men