Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, a good family man and a remarkably intuitive sleuth, is sent to the village of Ketanu - the site of his mother's disappearance many years ago - to solve the murder of an accomplished young AIDS worker. While battling his own anger issues and concerns for his ailing son, Darko explores the motivations and secrets of the residents of Ketanu. It soon becomes clear that in addition to solving a recent murder, he is about to unravel the shocking truth about his mother's disappearance.
Kwei Quartey's sparkling debut novel introduces readers to a rich cast of characters, including the Trokosi - young women called Wives of the Gods - who, in order to bring good fortune to their families, are sent to live with fetish priests. Set in Ghana, with the action moving back and forth between the capital city of Accra and a small village in the Volta Region, Wife of the Gods brings the culture and beauty of its setting brilliantly to life.
©2009 Kwei J. Quartey (P)2010 Tantor
"Engrossing.... Quartey...renders a compelling cast of characters inhabiting a world precariously perched between old and new. (Booklist)
I love the BBC and British mysteries, but my tastes are very eclectic. I live with my husband and menagerie of rescued cats and dogs.
What initially drew me toward this book is that it is read by Simon Prebble, one of my favorite narrators. My expectations for the book were really only that it would provide a reasonable diversion. Having read the McCall Smith Ladies No. 1 novels, I suppose I anticipated something similar. I was very happily mistaken. While I enjoy the AMS novels, they are light, frilly reads; Wife of the Gods is a substantial novel.
While the setting in Ghana is fascinating enough to provide an engrossing reading experience on its own, the mystery is deftly enough plotted to satisfy any mystery lover. After I was hooked on the novel, I looked up the author to discover that he is himself from Ghana, although now living in the US. His intimate knowledge of his setting shows in how quickly the reader is drawn into this--for most American readers--quite foreign world.
The main character, detective Dawson, is a fully-realized and realistic character. He is presented as a flawed individual coping at times not very well with difficult situations. As the mystery unfolds and clues are doled out, one can speculate on the outcome of this classical whodunit along with Detective Dawson. There's enough meat in this novel to discuss it endlessly, but suffice it to say whether you want a good mystery, a book about an exotic locale, or a book with significant social commentary, this is a good choice.
Finally, while I did enjoy hearing Simon Prebble read this book, I'm not sure he was the best choice as a narrator. His lovely British accent is always a pleasure to hear, but I can't help but wonder why someone who could have given the novel the added flavor of a lyrical African sound wasn't selected to read this novel which is about Ghana as much as it is about the mystery. Again, this isn't really a complaint--no star subtraction; Prebble brings life to each character skillfully as always.
This is well written detective story that takes place in Ghana.
I love that this story is set in Ghana just like a Michael Connelly book is set in California or a Steig Larsson book is set in Sweden. It's the setting where the author is comfortable and the best place to tell a particular story. Which might make more sense if I can explain what the book is not.
It's not a story about westerners in Africa. It's not a story about the struggle and strife of life in Africa as written by a non-African. It's not a cartoon-ish depiction of native Africans (like Alexander McCall Smith's books can sometimes be). It simply takes place there. Which means that their are interesting cultural details that are included because of the place setting, but those details are not included to make a political point or to be set up against a comparable western standard.
To put this in context - I love reading about Africa. I've read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction set within and about South Africa. And as wonderful as many of those stories are, they are almost always written by a non-native African or tell the story through western eyes.
I love that Kwerty's book just tells a story about the people who live their everyday lives in Ghana. The detective story is well done (Admittedly, I did kind of know who the murderer was given some of the early fore-shadowing and was disappointed by this at first. But the way the story unfolded was still satisfying and I had some moments of doubt as different suspects were investigated.) The main character is wonderfully flawed. I hope the author keeps this guy around. I'm guessing that he has future plans for Detective Dawson.
It looks like they are promoting Kwerty as another McCall Smith and while I understand that they are trying to capitalize on the success of the Mma Ramotswe stories, I think this book stands on it's own.
This is an excellent mystery. Set in Africa, it is more serious than the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books by Alexander McCall Smith. It's more comparable to the Detective Kubu books by Michael Stanely, but I think it has even more depth and sociological tones to it.
Detective Darko Dawson is very human and fallible, a product of his childhood as are we all.
This is a good mystery, a good read, great character study and presented by an excellent narrator, Simon Prebble.
This author has another book coming out next year. I can't wait!
This is not just a mystery set in Ghana, it is a story whose setting in Ghana is integral to the story. Wife of the Gods is written with a truly African voice. Our main character, Detective Inspector Dawson, displays the same strengths and weaknesses of a police officer anywhere. He's thoroughly human, charming and has a slight drug problem. And he's still a great investigator, dealing with terrible crimes of passion just like a NYC cop. I learned a lot about the culture while listening but it did not detract from this tale of murder, the references to religion, politics and society only enhanced the book. It was subtle and the narrator made their inclusion seem less. As much as our main character, and several others, struggle to find the murderer, they are also fighting an internal struggle that pits traditional beliefs and practices against modern medicine and current economic realities. I gave this book a 4 (four) only because I wanted more...Hopefully we will get another book soon from Kwei Quartey.
Absorbing, interesting, well-written. I hope Kwei Quartey writes many more books - and I hope they are available on audio. I will be looking for his next one.
A delicious read on many levels: a honest-to-goodness mystery with a fallible, dedicated detective; a psychological study of casualty and loss; a geographical and political lesson, For me, most of all, a delightful anthropological glimpse into another culture, in fact an amalgam of societies, where old-time mysticism meets new-age mysticism meets contemporary pragmatism. The characters we meet in Ghana are occasionally as incapable of understanding each other as a Tea Bagger is of fathoming a Secular Humanist, and equally as tolerant. New Paragraph:
I take issue with a previous reviewer who decried its "cruelty" and violence. This was a story with very little violence, but when it did appear it was an integral part of illuminating a crucial aspect of a character or a way of life, and viewed as the abhorrent behaviour it was. It was not glorified, certainly not enjoyable or admirable. It is not offered as entertainment; this is no "24." Rape takes place off stage, with none of the slavering and lascivious delight in the barbaric that some American writers like to wallow in. New Paragraph:
While occasionally the descriptions seemed hackneyed and the dialogue seemed false, Simon Prebble still presented with complete faith in the narrative, bringing us through the rough spots with aplomb and his cloak flourished over the puddles. My guess is this book listens better than it would read, and the credit for that belongs with Mr. Prebble. I look forward to their next collaboration.
Yes, it brings the police procedural to African belief systems for a really original read.
The lead character--you get inside him.
Yes, there are many complex elements you desperately want the author to bring together. And he does!
An occasion when a mystery introduces you to new cultures and mores, so you take away more than a mystery.
I actually prefer a good "local" mystery to the all over-the-top stories about mega-serial killers who torture and maim without ever seeming to be seen... Yes, some of the Big stories are fun too, but there can be plenty of intrigue without all that. And it's typically more believable. This story had good characters, and some interesting views into another culture. I didn't rate it higher only because i felt the pacing was a little slow, but i enjoyed the book and would recommend it. (Would have given 3 and 1/2 if that were possible.)
Ghana, Africa is the newest place for this hard hitting procedural that so many mystery fans seek to devour. And, devour 'Wife of the Gods' is just what I did this week-end. First in a series by Kwei Quartey, this book introduces us to DI Darko Dawson. He has been called upon to leave his home and family in the capital city to solve a murder in the small town of Ketanu, where Darko has relatives he hasn't seen for twenty-five years. Darko is a determined but flawed Detective, enjoying his marijuana and never backing down in a disagreement, he tends to get himself into difficult situations. His young son suffers from a heart defect that requires a costly operation, but his mother in law believes the 'old ways' and herbalists are the true solution for her grandson. More family issues influence his outlook on life; brother in wheelchair, mom disappearance when he was 10; and a less than encouraging father. After Darko's boss sends him to Ketanu to solve a murder, he reunites with his Mom's sister, enjoying her food and hospitality, but solutions are not easy going.
The story opens with the death of a beautiful young health worker who is spreading information about the cause and treatments for AIDS. Darko seeks to determine whether her death is connected to her conflicts with the local's practices of traditional ways , or is perhaps connected with someone whose 'love' was not welcomed by her. The local police immediately arrest a young man they are determined to make confess to her murder.
Darko's hard handed ways are finding lots of clues, but few answers. In the process he comes into conflicts with the local tradition of young girls being given to fetish priests as 'trokosi' , or Wives of The Gods. His outspoken dispute with the local police chief comes to a head concerning interrogation methods. Along the way, local beliefs about the connection of witchcraft and AIDS makes him friends and more enemies.
Darko deftly puts all he learns together with the facts of the case to surprise the reader with more solutions than we were expecting. I believe DI Darko Dawson will soon become a familiar name for all true mystery lovers! With the addition of these Ghanian based mysteries, Kwei Quartry has added an exciting, rather unfamiliar, home base for the mystery genre.
Listen on dog walks, commutes and around the house. Welcome virtually any genre but southern fiction holds a special place in my heart.
This was a quick read and a good mystery. I appreciated being transported to Ghana and I was intrigued by the clash between traditional customs (i.e., faith healers, polygamy) and modern medicine (i.e., AIDS education). This wonderful blend seemed real to me although I have never been to Africa or Ghana. The mystery itself uncovers the main character's flaws in a subtle way and paves a foundation upon which future Detective Darko mysteries may be built. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about modern day Ghana blended with history and tradition. The ultimate twist was a good and unexpected one which is what makes a mystery fun to read.
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