Private investigators Bertha and Mannes have been assigned to a case in which a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful to him.
The female sleuths must attempt to uncover how the client’s wife spends her spare time.
Tipped off regularly by an informer close to the family, Bertha and Mannes keep the wife under surveillance for several weeks.
They travel south to the Victoria Falls and even go undercover in a hairdressers.
But their persistence pays off.
Bertha and Mannes discover that the wife has been seeing another man… but that her motive was business rather than pleasure.
Fact not fiction
The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency books, featuring the loveable proprietor Precious Ramotswe, have been a phenomenal success.
They have sold nine million copies around the world and the rights have been bought by Hollywood.
The agency in the books, is of course fictional, but in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, there is a real-life detective agency.
Bertha, Mannes, Lindy and Betty crack all manner of cases, from locating missing secret agents to exposing immigration scams.
The Universal Private Investigations Service (UPIS) was set up in Lusaka three years ago, by a former Zambian commissioner of police who did his police training in Essex, in the UK.
The agency, whose motto is “justice and fair play”, is run in a spirit of free enterprise and has become extremely successful, receiving new cases on an almost daily basis.
They attribute their success to their philosophy of providing a fast and efficient service to clients and to the inefficiency of the local police, who can spend months and years investigating a case with little or no results.
They say the majority of their detectives are women because they are trying to redress the “traditional gender imbalance in Zambian society”… but they also admit that women are simply better at the job.
“Ladies are a very valuable tool,” says Edmond Lifwekelo, the agency’s director of investigations.
“We discovered that most of our cases, especially marital cases which involve surveillance, are handled very well with women there. We had a problem some time back. When you are doing surveillance in a bar or a nightclub and you put a man there, he starts drinking, he gets drunk and he can easily be compromised.
“In our own experience we’ve found that it’s quite different with ladies. She’ll just have a coke or a tonic. They are very disciplined.”
Lindy, 28, is married with two sons. Betty, 31, is a divorcee. They are the agency’s most experienced criminal investigators and work as partners.
Lindy says that at first her friends and family did not believe that, as a woman, she could make it as a private detective.
“But I’m here to show them that I can be the best,” she says.
Her husband was sceptical at first too and thought her work would disturb their family life, but he has become supportive.
Betty split up with her husband when they moved from their home town to the capital.
“He saw other beautiful ladies,” she says, “so we broke up.”
From her salary of £40 per month, Betty now supports 11 members of her extended family, for whom she is the sole bread-winner.
Bertha, 22, is the newest and youngest detective at the agency and has just completed her basic training.
Mannes, 24, is more experienced and specialises in marital cases, as well as doubling as the company’s marketing manager.
As Bertha is about to start tackling real cases, Mannes will be her mentor and they too will work as partners.
Bertha, who is single and a staunch Christian, is having trouble adjusting to life as a private eye.
She is uncomfortable going into bars alone or being seen in such places, especially by members of her church, in case they think she is a prostitute.
“But you just have to do it,” she concedes. “It’s your job.”