Friday, July 31, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

A Darko Dawson Mystery

Random House (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-4000-6759-6 (1400067596)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4000-6759-6 (9781400067596)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.00

Review: Kwei Quartey's compelling debut mystery, Wife of the Gods, introduces Ghanian Detective Inspector Darko Dawson investigating the murder of a medical student in a village some distance from his home (and jurisdiction) in the country's capital of Accra.

The crime is unusual and the government authorities have requested help from the capital, whose forensic knowledge far exceeds that of the local police force. The victim has no obvious injuries and is found posed as if sleeping in the woods. Dawson, however, has mixed feelings about accepting the assignment and returning to the village of Ketanu. He has been there only once, over 25 years ago, to visit his aunt and uncle. On a later visit, when just his mother went, she disappeared on returning home. Whether she is alive or dead, no one knows. Still, the case interests him and he's certain that the young man, who has been arrested for the crime, is innocent. He's equally certain that another popular sentiment in the village is also not true, that a purported witch living nearby struck her down using herbal magic.

Wife of the Gods is written with a quiet elegance, often lyrical in its narrative. Sound actually plays an important part of the story, Dawson having a particular affinity for distinguishing subtle variations in speech patterns. Consider this passage from early in the book:

Darko felt the silken quality and the musical lilt of Auntie's voice. He had always had a peculiarly heightened sensitivity to speech. Not only did he hear it but he often perceived it, as though physically touching it. He had on occasion told [his brother] Cairo or Mama that he could feel "bumps" in a person's voice, or that it was prickly or wet. They were mystified by this, but Darko could not explain it any better than he could describe the process of sight or smell.

The mystery itself is rather intricate, made so in part by the customs and beliefs of the villagers. The author incorporates these cultural references into the story in a seamless, natural manner; they are a part of Dawson's investigation without necessarily being the cause of it. Furthermore, their very being is not a hinderance and Dawson's knowledge of them may help him find the solution to the young woman's murder.

There are a number of familiar elements to the story including the wise mentor to Dawson. At one point he says to Darko, "You remember what I told you about solving mysteries?", to which Dawson replies, "That it's a matter of making a few of the connections and the rest will fall in place." And that is really what Wife of the Gods is all about.

An outstanding effort overall to be sure, but there are a couple of minor points that may resonate with readers. Darko Dawson is given to occasional, violent outbursts which seem at odds to the intellectual character that he seems most comfortable being. These scenes don't really add much depth or interest to his character, and seem discordant in a somewhat disturbing way. And the investigation seems to conveniently ignore a person's cell phone, and not the throwaway kind, that is the preferred way of communicating within the country -- not surprising given the lack of infrastructure for wired service. Yet no one thinks to check cell phone records to determine where people (read suspects) might have been at any given time. Finally, the title, which rates a special author note, is not terribly relevant to the crime or its solution, and serves more as an introduction to a tangential subplot. These comments, however, are at most quibbles for this truly remarkable mystery that unfolds in a most unusual setting.

Special thanks to Random House for providing an ARC of Wife of the Gods for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Buy from

If you are interested in purchasing Wife of the Gods from, please click the button to the right. Wife of the Gods (Kindle edition) is also available. Learn more about the Kindle, Amazon's Wireless Reading Device.

Synopsis (from the publisher): In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising med student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Eager to close the case, the local police have arrested a poor, enamored teenage boy and charged him with murder. Needless to say, they are less than thrilled when an outside force arrives from the big city to lead an inquiry into the baffling case.

Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, is the right man for the job, but he hates the idea of leaving his loving wife and young son, a plucky kid with a defective heart. Pressured by his cantankerous boss, Dawson agrees to travel to Ketanu, sort through the evidence, and tie up the loose ends as quickly and as efficiently as possible. But 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 sudden, inexplicable disappearance. Dawson is armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, but these gifts, sometimes overshadowed by his mercurial temper, may not be enough to solve this haunting mystery. In Ketanu, he finds that his cosmopolitan sensibilities clash with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered by their families to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods.

Return to ...


Post a Comment

Omnimystery Blog Archive

Total Pageviews (last 30 days)

Omnimystery News
Original Content Copyright © 2022 — Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites — All Rights Reserved
Guest Post Content (if present) Copyright © 2022 — Contributing Author — All Rights Reserved