Introducing Detective Inspector Darko Dawson: dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field—and one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years. When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss to leave behind his loving wife and young son in Ghana’s capital city to lead a murder investigation: In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Dawson is fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, so he’s the right man for the job, but the local police are less than thrilled with an outsider’s interference. For Dawson, this sleepy corner of Ghana is rife with emotional land mines: an estranged relationship with the family he left behind twenty-five years earlier and the painful memory of his own mother’s inexplicable disappearance. Armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, Dawson soon finds his cosmopolitan sensibilities clashing with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods. Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.
About the Author
Kwei Quartey was raised in Ghana by an African American mother and a Ghanaian father, both of whom were university lecturers. Dr. Kwei Quartey practices medicine in Southern California, rising early in the morning to write before going to work. He is currently writing his next novel.
Read an Excerpt
INSPECTOR MAX FITI had great significance in a place that had little. He was the head of police in Ketanu, a small town in the Adaklu-Anyigbe District of Ghana's Volta Region. All he had was a small police station as ragged as a stray dog, two constables, and an old police vehicle that ran erratically, but when there was trouble, people turned to Fiti.
Case in point: Charles Mensah, a fortyish man with a painfully thin body and a bulbous head like a soldier termite, had just come into his office this morning to report his sister missing.
"When did you last see Gladys?" Fiti asked.
"Yesterday afternoon, around three," Charles said. "Just before she left for Bedome."
"She went to Bedome? To do what?"
"You know she's a volunteer with the Ghana Health Service AIDS outreach. She goes to different villages to teach and so on." "Aha, yes."
The village of Bedome was east of Ketanu on the other side of the forest.
"When she didn't come back home yesterday evening," Charles continued, "I thought it was strange, so I rang her mobile and left a message. She never called back and I started to get worried, so then I rang Timothy Sowah, the director of the AIDS program, and he said he too had been unable to reach her on the mobile."
"Maybe she went to another village where the reception is poor?" Fiti suggested.
"Mr. Sowah told me Bedome was the only place she was scheduled to visit," Charles replied.
"Are you sure she actually got to Bedome? I mean, not that I'm saying something bad happened on the way, but-"
"I understand what you mean, Inspector. I got up early this morning-I couldn't sleep anyway-and I went to Bedome to check. Everyone told me yes, that Gladys had been there yesterday and she had left some time before sunset to go back to Ketanu." True, less than twenty-four hours had passed, Fiti reflected, but he agreed this was all very troubling. Gladys Mensah was a serious girl- reliable, solid, and smart. And beautiful. Very, very lovely indeed. So, yes, Fiti took this seriously. He jotted some notes on a legal pad, sitting slightly sideways because his rotund belly prevented him from pulling up close to his desk. Fiti was approaching the half-century mark in age, and most of the weight he had recently been gaining had gone to his midsection.
"Something else I want to tell you," Charles said. "Maybe it's nothing, but while I was on my way to Bedome this morning, I spoke to some farmers who have their plots near the forest. They told me that while they were working yesterday evening, they saw Samuel Boateng talking to Gladys as she was on her way back to Ketanu."
Inspector Fiti's eyes narrowed. "Is that so?"
He didn't like the Boateng family much. Samuel, the second oldest boy, was a ruffian who had once stolen a packet of PK chewing gum from a market stall.
"Have you asked Samuel or his father about it?" Fiti said.
"We don't speak to the Boatengs," Charles said tersely.
Fiti pressed his lips together. "Don't worry, I'll go and see them myself."
EFIA WAS A TROKOSI, which meant that she belonged to the gods. Eighteen years ago, her uncle Kudzo beat a man to death with a branch from a baobab tree. Over the next several months, bad things began to happen to the family: crops failed because of drought, Efia's mother had a stroke, and a cousin drowned in a river. Everyone in the family panicked. Even though Uncle Kudzo had been imprisoned for his crime, it appeared the gods were punishing the family for what he had done. This was the only reasonable explanation for the horrible series of events that had been taking place, and who knew how many more catastrophes were to be meted out by the gods?
The family elders went to the Bedome shrine to consult with Togbe Adzima, chief and High Priest of the village. Adzima, who was an intermediary between the physical world and the spirit world, said yes, there was most certainly a way out of this predicament. The family needed to bring a female child to serve at the shrine. Efia, twelve at the time, was the perfect choice. She was handed over to Adzima to learn "moral ways." This would restore good fortune to the family. As a trokosi, though, she officially belonged to the gods and was to bear their children through Togbe Adzima. He had three other trokosi and nineteen children among them. The wives cooked for him, cleaned, made palm wine, and harvested crops. Every penny from the sale of foodstuffs went to him. And there lay the heart of the matter. Whatever the supposed reason for the women serving at the shrine, despite their being sometimes loftily called "wives of the gods," they were the source of all Togbe's plenty, and that made life very good for him. Whenever Efia looked back on the day her new life as a trokosi began, she flinched with the pain of the memory. She and the extended family had walked about sixteen kilometers from their home village to the shrine, bearing all kinds of gifts for Togbe. Efia didn't understand why she was being cleaved from her family. She cried and cried and could not stop.
The shrine itself was a low mud hut containing a large, brightly painted wood carving plastered with human and animal figures. The gods endowed this carved object with magical powers that the priest could summon whenever needed. That's why it was often called a "fetish object" and the priest a "fetish priest," even though many of the priests didn't like the word fetish used to describe them.
Efia remembered entering another hut close to the shrine while her family stayed outside. It was hotter than a northern desert in there, smelly and stifling. Efia knelt down in front of Togbe and two other priests. They poured libation with schnapps and drank up whatever was left in the bottle. Togbe, sweat dripping off his face and body, chanted magic words and waved an oxtail fly whisk over different shrine objects.
Every stitch of Efia's clothing was removed, and a female elder inspected her to make sure she was a virgin. As Efia bowed down in obeisance to the fetish objects, she felt as if she would be choked to death by the smoky heat and the alcohol breath of the men.
But she didn't die. She survived. Her family left her in Bedome and she began her life at the shrine. She never tried to run away. The gods would punish her for that, and anyway, where would she go? Once Efia had reached puberty, Togbe Adzima began to have sex with her. At the age of sixteen, she had her first child, Ama, who was now fourteen.
Efia had missed her period last month and she could tell she was pregnant again. She had suffered two miscarriages since Ama was born. Her second live child, a boy, had died of malaria before he reached the age of one.
Togbe Adzima would want to eat plantain fufu for lunch. Balancing an empty basket on her head without the aid of her hands, Efia walked through the thick bush of the forest toward the plantain grove. Her feet, broad and solid from years of walking, easily passed over the tricky terrain of low shrubs, dead leaves, fallen trees, and trailing vines. It had rained a little last night, and the moist earth was fragrant. Overhead in the trees, birds filled the crisp air with bright morning song.
As she came level with a palm tree, she caught a glimpse of an animal on the ground barely a second before she stepped on it. Snake. She jumped to the side with natural quickness. But when she looked now, she saw that it wasn't a snake. It was a human foot, toes pointing up.
Efia put down her basket and moved slowly around the palm tree. She saw a woman lying on her back partially obscured by the branches of a low shrub. She was fully clothed. Her legs were together, her arms by her sides. Sleeping?
"Heh!" Efia called out. "Hello?"
She came forward two steps, pulled the branches aside, and when she saw the face, the wide-open eyes and the gaping mouth, she recoiled and her blood went cold.
No. "Gladys?" In a way, Gladys seemed different, in another way she looked the same. Efia touched her and was shocked by how cold and rigid she was. Her eyes were open but unmoving and cloudy white, as though filled with coconut milk.
"Gladys." Efia began to cry. "Ao, Gladys, wake up, wake up. Gladys!"
She got to her feet and whirled in a circle shrieking for help, but no one was close by. She began to run. Her vision darkened, her hearing deadened, and her feet lost sensation.
She burst out of the bush and spotted a man walking ahead along the Bedome-Ketanu footpath, and she ran after him screaming. He stopped and turned around, and as Efia got closer she recognized him as Isaac Kutu, the local herbalist and healer. His compound was not far away. She felt a surge of hope. Healer. Maybe he can do something.
"Mr. Kutu." She was gasping, trying to catch her breath. "Mr. Kutu, please come."
"It's Gladys Mensah. Hurry!"
Efia turned and began to run back. She could hear Mr. Kutu keeping up behind her. The bush seemed thicker and more tangled now that her energy was so spent, but she knew the way well and got there quickly.
The body was still there. Efia stopped, pointed, and then leaned over with her hands on her knees to get her breath.
Mr. Kutu pulled aside the obscuring bush and drew back at the sight. He stared for a moment and then knelt down by the body. He touched it softly and whispered something Efia didn't catch. He looked stunned.
Kutu stood up. "Bring me something to cover her."
Several plantain trees, their leaves long and broad, were only a few feet away. Efia pulled on a branch and broke it off. Kutu laid it gently across Gladys's body. It seemed much better that way, so much more dignified.
"I have to go and get Inspector Fiti," Kutu said. "Can you wait here for us to come back?"
Efia backed away, shaking her head. "No. I'm afraid to stay with her by myself."
She turned and bolted back to Bedome without stopping or looking back.
Including the shrine, Bedome was a collection of a dozen scattered thatch-roofed huts. Yesterday's rain had stained the soil dark, but once it dried out, it would be the identical monotonous light brown color of the dwellings.
The normal morning's activities-sweeping, cooking, collecting water, the smaller children playing-had begun, but everything stopped as Efia came running. She collapsed to the ground wheezing with exhaustion, her face buried in her palms. The trokosi wives came to her at once, dropping down beside her. What's wrong, what's the matter?
Efia couldn't speak. She was paralyzed with shock. Nunana, the oldest, most experienced wife, her body worn and wiry and her breasts wrung dry by the toll of six children, pulled Efia up and led her protectively away.
"What happened?" she said softly. And suddenly more sharply, "Stop crying and tell me what's wrong."
As Efia was sobbing out her answer, Togbe Adzima came out of his hut shirtless and yelled, "What are you people doing standing around like cocoa trees?"
He was in his late fifties. He was oily and never looked clean, and his eyes were red and muddy from drinking.
She came to him quickly.
"What's going on?" he demanded.
"Please, Togbe. Efia says Gladys Mensah is dead in the forest."
"What?" "She found her at the plantain grove."
"Just now, Togbe."
He looked baffled. He beckoned Efia over, and the children of the shrine fell in behind her, eyes wide with curiosity.
"What are you saying, Efia?"
She repeated what she had told Nunana. Togbe Adzima frowned. "Are you sure?"
Efia nodded. She tried to wipe her tears away, but they kept pouring.
Adzima went into his hut and came back out buttoning his shirt. "I'm going to see for myself. Finish your work. Make sure my akasa is ready when I return."
The Boatengs' home was a ramshackle house on its last legs. When Inspector Fiti entered, Mr. Boateng looked wary and his wife was visibly nervous. She offered Fiti some water, which he dismissed as if she had suggested poison. Four of the seven children were at home, all of them in tattered clothing.
"Where is Samuel?" Fiti asked in Ewe.
"Please, Inspector, he went with some friends to somewhere," Boateng said.
"Find him," Fiti said. "I want to talk to him. Right now."
Boateng's eight-year-old son went to look for Samuel and came back with him a few minutes later. Samuel was nineteen, compact and wiry, the striations of his ropy muscles showing through his faded shirt. Chale-wate sandals clung to his muddy feet by threads. He looked suspiciously from the inspector to his parents.
"Sit on the floor," Fiti told him.
Samuel's face was fluid and mobile. His forehead creased and relaxed in rapid waves like a physical manifestation of his mind at work. He sat down looking both wary and defiant. The inspector moved closer and stood over him.
"Have you seen Gladys Mensah today?" Samuel's brow furrowed. "Please, no, sir."
"What about yesterday? Did you see her?"
"Yesterday? No, sir."
"Don't lie, boy. Some farmers saw you with her."
"No, sir. It wasn't me."
Everyone turned in the direction of the voice. Isaac Kutu was standing at the door.
"Yes?" Fiti saw the grave look on Isaac's face. "What's the matter?"
"You should come, Inspector. Gladys Mensah is dead."
BAD NEWS SPREADS THROUGH any small town like fire through dry savanna bush. Kweku and Osewa Gedze first heard about Gladys Mensah's death as they were working on their cocoa farm. The golden ripe cocoa pods were particularly beautiful this year. Each was perfectly almond shaped with sculptured ridges that ended in a point like an erect nipple. One pod held thirty to forty fleshy seeds that were scooped out, fermented, and then dried for days before they were ready to be shoveled into sacks for shipping. It was back-splitting work, and for all of it Osewa and Kweku would probably never savor a single mini-square of the final product-chocolate. It all went to fancy stores in the big cities at prices that they could never dream of paying.
Kweku wiped the sweat off his face and watched his wife for a moment. She was on her knees deftly slashing the pods open with a cutlass. Fifty-one years old and nine years his junior, she was strong and skilled with powerful hands that wielded a cutlass or shovel better than most men.
What People are Saying About This
"With a crisp English accent and deep but deliberate projection, Simon Prebble is a boon to any production.... And blends beautifully with Quartey's style." -Publishers Weekly Audio Review
Reading Group Guide
WIFE OF THE GODS is written by Kwei Quartey, a man. Does he portray Ghanaian women in a strong and positive light?
2. At one point in the story, Christine, the wife of the protagonist Darko Dawson, accuses him of being "male supremacist." Do you feel that was a fair accusation?
3. Detective Darko Dawson has several contrasting character traits. One of them is an explosive temper in certain situations. What accounts for this? Does that make him less likeable?
4. Arguments for and against the still-existing traditional practice of†Trokosi are presented in the book, the opposing side asserting that it is indentured servitude or even slavery, the proponents insisting that it is an age-old solution for crimes committed. What is your view?
5. Darko loved his aunt Osewa, yet he had not visited her in 25 years. Does that seem odd? What do you believe is the reason for the long absence?
6. Some reviews of WIFE OF THE GODS say there is humor in the novel. Do you agree? What humorous moments struck you?
7. Did you feel you learned anything about Ghana in this novel? What did you find remarkable, if anything?
8. How would you describe the dynamic between Darko, Christine, and Gifty, her mother?
9. Do you feel Gifty was genuinely concerned about her grandson, Hosiah, or was she just self-serving?
10. Townsfolk accused Elizabeth of witchcraft. How do you feel about that?
11. What were your feelings about Togbe Adzima, the priest, and how did you feel about the act committed against him by Efia, one of his wives?
12. Do you suspect there was a love affair between Isaac the healer and Gladys, the victim?
13. Were you surprised by the ending of the book?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is my kind of mystery: a properly flawed detective (in this case, pot-smoking and hot-tempered) with a heart of gold (a gallant defender of women and children) gets thrown into a case where the stakes are as high they can get because his own mother's disappearance and his family members play a huge part. Quartey does a great job presenting Ghanaian nature and people to the reader and I really like that he manages to pull real-life issues like the AIDS crisis and his criticism of the trokosi practice into the story without preaching about it. I particularly enjoy how Dawson is extra sensitive to the timbre of people's voices - like a blind person would - it's a great quirk that I've never read a detective who had before.
Wife of the Gods: A Novel by Kwei Quartey. I really enjoyed this first novel from a writer I¿ll plan to follow. Darko, the detective, is a complex character, well developed, whom this reader got to like in spite of his imperfections. Quartey does a good job giving us a sense of the Ghanian culture in which the story is set- though I can¿t vouch for its accuracy, it feels right. The mystery is well crafted, with a surprise twist, and personal connections for Darko. Promotional material suggests comparisons with Alexander McCall Smith¿s African series and Tony Hillerman¿s mysteries set in the Navajo culture. Hillerman is a closer comparison- setting a mystery in an unfamiliar culture with strong traditions of healing, witchcraft and such ¿ and the cultural differences being integral to the story. The only parallels I see with McCall Smith¿s books is the setting in Africa and a detective. I like both but they are different styles entirely. I recommend Wife of the Gods wholeheartedly and am waiting for Quartey¿s next book.
Inspector Darko Dawson has been sent to Ketanu, a village several kilometers away from his home base of Accra, the capital of Ghana, to invesigate a murder. He has mixed emotions about going, since Ketanu is the site of his mother's disappearance more than 25 years ago. In fact, he still has relatives living there. While in Ketanu, not only must the urbane Dawson contend with a population fixated on witchcraft, but the murder investigation involves him with many local superstitions, faith healers, and priests with several wives. While the publisher compares this book to Alexander McCall Smith's 1st Ladies Detective Agency series, the only similarity is the setting. This is a good police procedural, with well developed and believable characters, an engaging setting, and a cleverly twisting plot that kept me guessing until the end.Dawson is a wonderful character-- a dope smoking, firey tempered, independent, 'punch- them-out-and-take-names- later' detective. He reminds me very much of J.A. Jance's J.P. Beaumont character. While he fights his own demons, sneers at inept superiors and peers, and constantly annoys everyone, he befriends the helpless, listens to his inner senses, and cleverly solves the crime.Dr. Quartey writes eloquently, in spare but beautiful prose. The book proceeds quickly from the opening to the end. I especially enjoyed having a glossary of Ghanian terms available. It made the dialogue (which is masterful) readily accessible to a reader unfamiliar with the area. The cliche 'page-turner' is very applicable. I was thrilled to see that he is already working on book #2. Both the character of Dawson and the author have the makings of a great series.
Note: I received this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.Wife of the Gods by Kewi Quartey is a mystery novel set in Ghana. It follows the detective Darko Dawson as he tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a young woman.The book is being marketed towards readers of Alexander McCall Smith's popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. While both Smith's work and Wife of the Gods are mystery novels set in Africa, they are quite different in tone. Quartey's book is less like a warm cup of tea and more like a shot of alcohol. Both are good, but which one you want depends on your mood. Wife of the Gods is paced well with plenty of suspense and an interesting array of characters and suspects. Also the practice of taking 'wives of the gods' was unknown to me before this book and was both fascinating to read about and repulsive to think about.Overall I would recommend this book to people interested in African culture, human rights, and more broadly to mystery buffs in general.
An intriguing murder mystery rife with the color and traditions of Ghana. Many of the people there still hold strong beliefs in these traditions and can find ways of using them to put blame on things when they go wrong, but in the end it is just human nature that causes all the problems.We watch as Darko Dawson tries to solve a murder than takes him and his fellow police officers in different directions that often cloud the real answer, which ends up pitting them against themselves and native tradition almost letting the real killer "get away with murder."
A note: This book is not like Alexander McCall Smith's writing, except for the fact that it is set in an African nation and explains much about some of their beliefs. This is about a murder, and the the tone is very realistic. Wife of the Gods is a mystery novel set in Ghana. Inspector Darko Dawson is assigned a case in the town where his mother went missing twenty-five years ago. As he works to sift through the clues and discover the murderer of Gladys Mensah, he must learn to deal with his own demons and doubts before they destroy him and his career.I found this excellent reading. Not only was the mystery a good puzzle, but the information about Ghanaian culture and beliefs was very interesting. I appreciated the presentation of conflicting beliefs and how that affects the daily life of people. The writing was fluid and I enjoyed the descriptive style. This story left me wanting more of detective Dawson, his family and his associates.
Detective Inspector Darko Dawson of the Ghana Police Service, is sent to rural Ketanu to investigate the murder of 22-year-old medical student, Gladys Mensah. It¿s a homecoming of sorts for the detective: his mother¿s sister lives in Ketanu ¿ but it¿s been a quarter century since Darko has visited Aunt Osewa Gedze. What makes the reunion bittersweet is that Darko¿s mother disappeared without a trace after visiting Ketanu 25 years ago. It was the police officer who unsuccessfully investigated Beatrice Dawson's disappearance who inspired young Darko to become a police officer. It¿s immediately apparent Darko is an unwelcome visitor ¿ not to his aunt and uncle, but to the police officials he¿s been brought in to assist. Ketanu¿s head of police, Inspector Max Fiti, is a bully who will use any means to make an arrest, even if he arrests the wrong person. DI Dawson is an honest officer who wants to see justice done. The investigation brings to the surface the tensions between those who adhere to the ways of old Ghana ¿ including herbal healing, witchcraft and trokosi (a custom that involves the forced marriage of very young girls to local high priests) -- and those who embrace the modern world. And DI Dawson is in the middle. He¿s a edgy character with anger management issues, not a great trait for a cop.Wife of the Gods is an absolutely terrific mystery, with an intriguing and multi-layered hero, a most interesting setting and truly wonderful writing. The author hooks readers on page one, keeps them engaged until the very satisfying ending, and leaves them asking for more. (Thank goodness the author is already working on a second novel!) This first novel by an author raised in Ghana and now practicing medicine in the U.S., has been compared to Alexander McCall Smith¿s books featuring Botswanan private detective Precious Ramotswe. In my opinion, the only thing Darko and Precious have in common is that they live in Africa. Smith's #1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency novels are the gentlest of gentle fiction with humor and heart -- I¿m not certain they¿re even mysteries. Wife of the Gods is a no-doubt-about-it police procedural, a serious mystery that still has plenty of heart.
Kwei Quartey's Wife of the Gods is similar to many British police procedurals. In a small community, a dead woman is discovered in suspicious circumstances and detectives are called in from the nation's capital to assist the local police with the investigation. In this case, the capital is not London but Accra, and the scene of the crime is the small community of Ketanu in the Volta Region of Ghana. Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is assigned to the case because he is fluent in the local language. His mother's sister still lives in the community, and the case gives him an opportunity to reconnect with his family. It also brings back memories of his mother, who disappeared without a trace on her way from Ketanu to Accra some twenty-five years earlier.The mystery itself was fairly predictable. I figured out the solution fairly early in the book, and I think most frequent mystery readers would do so as well. However, the setting was so different and the characters were so interesting that it made up for the lack of complexity in the mystery. Quartey's characters illustrate the cultural tensions between those who have a modern lifestyle with a secular/scientific outlook on life and those who live in a more traditional manner, fearing evil spirits and witchcraft and turning to the fetish priests and religious customs for protection from the spirits. Darko Dawson is a basically good man who seems to be willing to bend a few rules in the cause of justice. I think the author could build a successful series around this character. I hope there will be more to look forward to!
The book offers a neatly satisfying mystery and a glimpse into Ghanaian culture. The hero, Darko Dawson, is a complex character who is likeable overall, but not without his flaws. At times the plot seems a little too tidy, but it is pleasantly convoluted in its development - you can see the end coming if you squint, but the path there isn't as easy to predict.
A story reminiscent of the First Ladies detective agency servies. Nice story line, good character development. Will read more in the series.
When I first saw mention of Kwei Quartey¿s Wife of the Gods, I knew I had to read it. I can¿t resist a crime fiction novel, especially one set in a country other than my own. I get to learn about another country and culture while at the same time settling in with the comfort of the familiar format of a mystery.Kwei Quartey¿s protagonist, Darko Dawson is the kind of detective I would want investigating my murder. He has a dogged determination and a strong sense of right and wrong¿at least where others are concerned. Righteous is the word that comes to mind, but not in an arrogant or overbearing way. Darko is anything but perfect though. He has a weakness for marijuana and a bit of a temper which lands him in plenty of trouble.The novel is set in the beautiful country of Ghana. Quartey paints a portrait of a complex society, one that straddles the old traditions and the new. In a community where witchcraft is feared and superstitions are commonplace, science is still trying to find a foothold. Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a modern man. He trusts in science and facts to solve his cases. When he is assigned to Ketanu, a small out of the way community, to aid in the murder investigation of a volunteer AIDS worker, he comes face to face with the very superstitions he disdains.The Chief Inspector of Ketanu has his eyes set on a particular young man as his suspect, but Darko isn¿t convinced. He sets out on his own investigation, determined to solve the murder.Darko¿s mother disappeared after a visit to Ketanu over twenty years before while visiting her sister who lived in the town. Perhaps he can look into her disappearance while there as well. It¿s a long shot after so many years, but he at least wants to give it a try.I have seen this book compared to Alexander McCall Smith¿s The No. 1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency, and I have to disagree. Smith¿s series is not much of a crime fiction series at all¿and if you go into those books expecting a mystery, you may well be disappointed. With Quartey¿s book, on the other hand, a mystery is exactly what you get. It¿s also a bit darker in some respects, than Smith¿s series. There was so much I liked about this series, including the various interesting characters, the flashbacks into Darko¿s past and the unfolding of the mystery of his mother¿s disappearance as well as the murder of that young volunteer. There was a moment early on in the book when I thought one story thread might get lost in other, but fortunately that did not happen.Another aspect that especially caught my attention was the health department and volunteers like the murdered woman who struggle to reach a population of people who are very entrenched in the old ways. The misinformation and superstitions surrounding AIDS is frightening. Add to that the issue of fetish priests and the practice of families marrying off their teenage daughters to them in hopes of turning around bad luck or getting rid of a curse. Quartey offers both sides of these issues to some extent, but it is clear which side Darko falls on. Wife of the Gods is a promising start for a new series. There are many characters, including Armah, Darko¿s inspiration and mentor, that I hope I can visit again. And I do hope I haven¿t seen the last of Elizabeth Mensah. She¿s an admirable and strong woman. Kwei Quartey is definitely an author to watch.
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey is both unique and engrossing. With the exotic setting of Ghana in West Africa, a young, beautiful women murdered, strong family passions, and a main character who is both clever and compassionate yet has issues of his own.Inspector Darko Dawson is sent to a rural town to investigate the murder of a young medical student who perhaps ran afoul of the local fetish priest. He speaks the language of the district as he has family there, it is also the town from which his mother disappeared 20 years ago. Working at cross purposes the local police seem to be railroading a young man into confessing to the murder. Contrasting the old ways of Africa with the emergence of the new and modern, this novel tells us a lot about Africa and it¿s culture today, while still delivering a very good mystery story.
Here¿s a police murder mystery dressed in fresh African colors. We meet flawed but sympathetic Inspector Darko Dawson of the Ghanaian police in his first fictional outing. Darko is a loving husband and father who can let his temper get the upper hand. He¿s investigating the murder of a young medical student and local AIDs worker in the small Ghanaian village where his own mother disappeared years ago. The local cop thinks he has the case sewn up when he arrests a ne¿er-do-well boy, although Darko is not so sure. Perhaps it was really the traditional healer or the victim¿s boss at the health ministry? And does Darko¿s long vanished mother fit into this mystery? The plot delivers a solid mystery while exploring contemporary Ghanaian issues. The evolving status of women is a key theme. Darko is incensed when a man hits (one of) his wives but the local police officer won¿t intervene because ¿a man can beat his wife if he wants¿. At the same time, some women are taking new roles and demanding (and sometimes getting) more equal treatment. The murder victim¿s unmarried aunt runs a business, uncowed by local ruffians who try crying witch to distract attention from their own misdeeds. There¿s also an interesting subplot centering on the tension between traditional healing practices and western medicine. Quartey¿s Ghana is not all pretty vistas and quaint folk customs. The old ways¿both the colorful and the repressive¿live cheek-to-jowl with new. Quartey¿s strong characters enmeshed in complex relationships remain vividly in mind. He gives us are real people with human motivations and emotions. All in all a satisfying read. I¿ll look for future Darko mysteries.
I'm a keen reader of literary novels, particularly those that provide insight into contemporary world issues. So let me confess upfront that I haven't read an unabashed detective novel in more than two decades. Despite this caveat, there was something special about "Wife of the Gods," by Kwei Quartey, that caught my eye. The promotional descriptions suggested unpretentious literary merit and a promise of multifaceted views of life in modern Ghana. I'm attracted to books set in other cultures, and until I picked up this book, I had not yet read anything set in that vibrant West African country. I was also intrigued that the author was a medical doctor living and actively practicing medicine in Los Angeles, my hometown. Obviously, he'd know about my culture and probably do a good job making his native culture understandable and exciting to someone like me. I took a chance and got the book.I was immediately pulled into the plot. The novel did not disappoint...at least not at first. In fact, reading this novel caused me to rediscover how fun and relaxing it can be to read a genre detective novel--a boldfaced who-done-it. But to do this, I had to switch off my analytical brain. As long as I was able to do that, the novel remained absorbing and compelling. But if I started to think too much about what I was reading...well, that's when the trouble started to creep in and fester. The main character, Detective Darko Dawson, stands out as strong and believable, but many of the supporting characters are shameless stereotypes. As the novel drew to a close, I was unable to keep my analytical brain disengaged--I couldn't stop focusing on how hackneyed and ordinary it all was. When I turned the last page, I was totally turned off--this was, after all, just another run-of-the-mill detective novel, albeit one set in a fascinating, authentically portrayed foreign locale. The writing was satisfactory, pulling the story along and not calling too much attention to itself (which is probably good for a detective novel). But if I let my analytical mind take control, I started cringing at prose on every page. I decided to give this novel three stars because, for most of the book, it provided me with a good, enjoyable reading experience. In particular, I loved learning about life in modern Ghana...and I didn't figure out who the murderer was until I was almost finished. I would definitely recommend this book to any readers looking for a light vacation novel and wanting to learn about Ghana. This would be an especially good choice for travelers headed toward West Africa.
It¿s always fun to read a book set in a new or unusual location. Taking place in Ghana, debut novelist Kwei Quartey¿s mystery ¿Wife of the Gods¿ is new in that regard, but it¿s also the first of a planned series introducing the interesting character of Detective Inspector Darko Dawson.We meet Darko Dawson as he is being sent to a remote village to help solve the murder of a young woman who was an AIDs activist. Dawson has been tapped for the assignment because he speaks the local language and still has an aunt and uncle who live there. The assignment brings with it very mixed feelings for Dawson. When he was a child he mother inexplicably disappeared from this village and the case was never solved.We are introduced to several quirky and kind local characters as Dawson attempts to solve the crime, but things don¿t go smoothly for Dawson as he fights several demons of his own. His son is gravely ill, he has a temper he finds hard to control, and he knows his beloved wife hates it when he smokes marijuana but at times he simply cannot resist its calming lure. Despite, or perhaps because of these shortcomings, Dawson becomes a sympathetic character.Quartey does a nice job of creating a solid history for his major characters and infuses the story with lots of local color, describing food, clothing, sights and sounds. The dialogue seems a bit quaint, but perhaps that is reflective of the location, and while the mystery is not overly complex, the careful way that Dawson finally puts the pieces together makes for a satisfying ending.
The StoryA mysterious murder of a model citizen takes place in Ghana. A small community¿s beloved young medical student, Gladys, dies under questionable circumstances. Upon the results of her autopsy, it is evident that her death is attributable to homicide. Although local authorities are on the case, an additional investigator is brought in from Accra (the nearby large municipality). This investigator is Detective Inspector Darko Dawson. Coincidentally, he had spent considerable time in this small community as a child as he has family who resides there. In addition to this family, his mother mysteriously died en route to home on her way back from visiting her sister in this town of Ketanu.Darko is married with a boy who was born with a congenital heart defect, a hole in his heart in need of repair. To me, this mirrors the hole left in Darko¿s heart upon the unexplained death of his mother. As Darko and his wife, Christine, work to heal their son, he is called out to Ketanu to work on this case. There is much about Ketanu that Darko welcomes, yet affects him in such a sad way as it brings back so many memories for him. Able to understand their native tongue and customs, he sets out to solve the mystery of Gladys¿ unexplained death. The ReviewI¿ve never paid a doctor for healing me with a payment of two live chickens, although the thought now tempts me! I have yet to read The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, but I can only imagine that it must be similar in many ways to this book. African culture has always intrigued me and I got a great dose of it in reading this who-done-it. Expertly, Quartey includes a glossary of terms in the back of the book so that readers can follow along with some of the local dialect contained within the novel.To begin, what I most liked about this story was its characters. I think that Quartey did a great job bringing the protagonist to the forefront of the reader¿s mind, almost reminiscent of a James Patterson mystery in which you come to be the fly on the shoulder of the detective. In fact, many aspects of this novel reminded me of James Patterson. There were the good vs. evil forces that were present. In addition, the taboos and witchcraft of the ancient culture were included in this modern-day story. Therefore, what you get out of this novel is some history, culture, spookiness, and a good old fashioned detective mystery. All the makings of a good book. Speaking of culture¿ the way that the food is described in this book made my mouth water. I love plantains and there are plenty of them in here!What wasn¿t my ¿cup of tea?¿ Well¿ in general I¿m not a real mystery enthusiast. I will read perhaps 2-3 mysteries per year. But, that isn¿t to say that this isn¿t a good book. It is a rather great read. Unlike many mystery fanatics I know, I¿m just not hooked on them. But, anybody who loves the art of a well written murder mystery and is looking for something refreshing and different will find just that in Wife Of The Gods.The RatingOn Sher¿s ¿Out of Ten Scale,¿ I am giving Wife Of The Gods a rating of 7.5 out of 10. I liked the setting of a murder mystery in a land and culture that are completely foreign to me. I enjoyed the richness of the setting nearly as much as I did the story itself. I also appreciated the message in the book about preventing the spread of AIDS, how simple it really can be.
¿Wife of the Gods,¿ by Kwei Quartey is an excellent police procedural. The story of a murdered medical student is spiced with the customs and realities of a country struggling to reconcile its past with what it wants for the future. Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is sent to the town of Ketanu from the Ghanaian capital of Accra to discover who would have wanted Gladys Mensah dead. The town holds painful memories for him because it was from there that his mother vanished twenty-five years earlier. Dawson would be easy to dislike: he smokes marijuana, looses his temper a lot, and beats up suspects. But his tenderness toward his wife and sickly son, his burning need to protect the weak and his love and respect for the detective who investigated his mother¿s disappearance keep him from being a monster. All he really wants is to bring justice to those who too often are denied it. I had a suspicion who the guilty party was pretty early on, but the all the details of life in Ghana, the traditions, and the conflict between modern and traditional medicine made this book a keeper for me. Great character, interesting story ¿ all you need for a good mystery. I can¿t wait to read the next one.
Kwei Quartey's first novel features a persistent police detective in Ghana, in a book that has all the earmarks of being the beginning of a series. Darko Dawson, the main character, is a good man, with a family that he adores and strong ties to the memories of his mother, but he also has his flaws, such as a temper that leads him into rash and often unwise decisions and his addiction to marijuana. When he's sent to the small Ewe village of Ketanu, he wonders if this is a form of punishment by his boss for Darko's unorthodox treatment of a criminal, but he is also glad for the opportunity to revisit the village where his mother disappeared years ago. His official business is to determine the killer of Gladys Mensah, a beautiful woman full of promise, who was a medical student and worked in the villages for the Ministry of Health. On the side, though, Darko also plans to investigate his mother's fate, as his nightmares have revealed to him that it is finally time.With these two weighty mysteries, the novel delivers all the expected conventions of the genre: clues, multiple suspects, incompetent investigators posing obstacles to the main character, red herrings, and a cast of colorful characters with hidden layers and secrets. What raises this story above an average mystery read is the wonderful cast, in particular our troubled Darko Dawson, and the unique setting.I was intrigued by my reactions to Darko. What started with sympathy (as he has nightmares of his missing mother) mellowed out into general acceptance when we see that he is just an ordinary man, negotiating work and family and horrible traffic. I was a little irked with his marijuana usage, not the fact that he had an addiction but the way that he is so self-righteous with his supplier buddy despite his breaking the law. I brushed it off; maybe he was just messing around with the guy. Yet later on, Dawson made a few choices while being driven by his temper that I couldn't accept, even if I could sympathize with his motivation. He just went too far - I was actually angry at him. He gained my sympathies again as the novel progressed, though, by his strong moral core and his enlightened treatment of others, as well as his perseverance to find the truth and not just a scapegoat. In the end, I liked Darko all the more for his being an imperfect human. Characters that are complex and real, who can push me to a strong emotional reaction, drive the story, and in this book, we have our hero and an abundance of other such people filling the pages.Of course, setting the novel in Ghana is another device that sets this story apart from other mysteries. Unique locations are always a bonus, but also run the risque of becoming a gimmick to draw readers; fortunately, in this case it is not. The author is actually from Ghana, and the characters inhabit a world that is real and actualized. I enjoyed immersing myself in a culture that was new to me, a blend of ancient traditions and tribal customs and, yet, inescapable modernization. These factors made this mystery enjoyable and different from others that I've read; different in a positive way. I hope that Quartey fulfills the potential of turning this book into a series.
"Wife of the Gods" is a very good debut novel. It suffers from occasional infelicities of language, but those should disappear as the author gains experience.The publisher compares Quartey to Alexander McCall Smith ¿ presumably meaning the Precious Ramotswe novels ¿ but the only thing this book has in common with Smith's series is that it takes place on the same continent. Quartey's book is a dark murder mystery featuring a very flawed investigator, Inspector Darko Dawson. It is as further away from the cozy atmosphere of Precious Ramotswe as Ghana is from Botswana.Darko is intriguing and charismatic, if not always likable. Apart from the murder, he seems to be engaged in a lonely fight against endemic superstition, from folk healers to the horrible tradition of the trokosi, or wife of the gods. (Yes, I'm being judgmental about another culture. Some things are just wrong, wherever they take place.)I enjoyed "Wife of the Gods," especially once I got into the West African rhythms, and am looking forward to future Darko Dawson investigations.
Detective Inspector Darko Dawson has been sent out to the countryside of Ghana to investigate the murder of a young woman. When he arrives, he must deal with the local healer, the rural police, and the local fetish priest, as well as reconnect with his extended family he hasn't seen since his mother's disappearance years earlier. There are plenty of murder suspects, and the more Dawson looks, the more complications he finds. And his own temper isn't doing him any good either. I've seen the book description, which compares this to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Perhaps. But I think that a better comparison would be to Inspector Morse. This is a darker book. Don't let the lush Ghanaian setting fool you - this is a brooding, imperfect police detective dealing with some morally complicated issues. I really enjoyed the chance to read this book. There were some format issues I spotting that proofreading ought to take care of. But the story, the characters, the setting - all make this a great book to read. I hope this is just the first in a good solid series.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tightly plotted, character-rich detective mystery set in present-day Ghana. I especially savored getting to know Darko Dawson, the big-city detective with ties to the small rural town where there are so many twists and turns to unravel. The details about life in Ghana are rich and vivid. Quartey provides a robust and sensitive introduction to the country and its politics, without veering into pedanticism. Plus I absolutely love a book with a map in it! I found myself wanting to rush out to the store to buy the next installment. But dang, I have to wait for Mr. Quartey to write it.
Excellent read. It reads like an Alexander McCall Smith story with the character development. Highly recommend.
Wife of the Gods is a murder mystery set in the Volta Region of Ghana, the first in what will be a series about Inspector Darko Dawson of the CID. Dawson lives and works in Accra, the capital and major city of Ghana, but is called in to solve the case of the murder of a medical student who had been working with the trokosi - or wives of the gods - young girls who are offered up to the local fetish priest. Quartey balances a lot of issues in this novel: the country versus the city, the folkways and superstitions that retain a hold on many Ghanains versus Dawson's skeptical, modern beliefs, and Dawson's haunted past versus his effectiveness of working on the case. Dawson is an interesting character with contrasting qualities: a family man, a hard-working detective yet prone to rages and fond of marijuana. This is a interesting story that offers a glimpse into life in modern-day Ghana. The mystery is pretty good too.
I thought this book was okay, not great. Although the publisher seems to want to position it as "the next Alexander McCall Smith" or "the next No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," I think that works to its disadvantage. Really, the only similarities are that both works take place in Africa and are about someone trying to solve crime. Aside from that they are very different, and anyone who opens "Wife of the Gods" looking for a gentle, quiet story about a Mma Ramotswe-type character will be disappointed.Another reviewer stated that "Wife of the Gods" is a story that could only work in the Africa setting. I disagree. I feel that it could easily be translated to New York or any other location. The specifics of African tradition and mysticism would have to change, but the basic outlines of the plot are fairly standard.Kwei Quartey tells a good story, though his writing style and pacing could use some work. I felt that he made it a bit too obvious too soon who the murderer was, but the exact details took longer to unfold, which is good. Technically speaking, his dialogue feels stilted; his characters spew exposition in ways that don't feel natural; and there are a few passages from different characters' perspectives that didn't work for me. They don't add anything to the story, and the change of "voice" was jarring.My biggest issue with the book overall is the way the main character is given not one, not two, but like three dozen different "character traits" that all felt piled on. It's not enough that he has a missing mother, a crippled brother, a seriously ill son, and an annoying mother-in-law; we have to also give him a pot habit and an uncontrollable temper AND a mysterious ability to sense when people are lying. It just felt like the author was tossing stuff in there randomly as it occurred to him, rather than do a more nuanced development of the character simply via his words and actions. The various pieces did not really "gel" together into a cohesive portrayal of a character, and thus it was hard for me to relate to him.Overall, I feel that this book is a good first effort for a new author. Quartey shows a lot of promise and if he takes some time to polish his style and his craft, he could be great. But, if you are a huge fan of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, don't pick this book up expecting it to be similar. You're more likely to like it if you like hard-boiled police mysteries.
Good read! Darko Dawson is a flawed protagonist and at first I didn't want to like him, but I still couldn't put it down. Kwei Quartey writes with the rich color and texture of Ghana, with dashes of darkness punctuating it, creating a fascinating narrative. The ending of the book is the most striking example of that contrast, and it moved me to tears which is rare in a mystery. The story keeps you hooked, and I wasn't able to go to bed until I finished it.