Monday, October 15, 2018

Review of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey (Random House, 2009)

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson works for CID in Accra, Ghana. When a young health worker is found dead in the small town of Ketanu far to the north of the capital, Dawson finds himself assigned to investigate at the behest of a government minister, selected by his boss because he speaks the local language. By coincidence, it is where his aunt lives and the last place his mother was seen alive twenty five years earlier, getting into a minibus to return home. Dawson arrives to find a jumpy and headstrong local inspector and a number of suspects who are rooted in old traditions. His style of policing is at odds with local ways of doing things and he is soon crossing swords with those not used to having their authority challenged. To make matter worse, the local inspector has already decided who the murderer is and can see no reason for Dawson to hang around. The visitor, however, is interested in justice, not simply a conviction.

Wife of the Gods is set in Ghana in West Africa and is a pretty much a straight police procedural. The lead character, Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a man who believes in rational science and evidence and he has little time for old traditions, beliefs and customs. When he is sent to a small town to investigate a murder, his world view is bought into direct conflict with old ways, with the locals suspicious of an outsider, especially one who doesn’t share their values. His task is to investigate the death of a health official who has been promoting protection against AIDS. She too was viewed with suspicion. Quartey uses the premise to explore how Ghana is changing and the clash of new and old values. The story is nicely told and Dawson is an interesting character, prone as he is to mistakes and hot-headedness. The plot is engaging and Quartey does a good job of keeping a number of suspects in the frame. The ending is a little telegraphed, but generally works well, although there are a few loose threads at the conclusion that remain unresolved, which was a little frustrating. Overall, an engaging, traditional police procedural that provides an interesting social commentary on Ghanaian society.

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