The blurb on the back of the book says it’s “for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Tony Hillerman.” The only things this book has in common with McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are:
a) It’s set in Africa. Ghana in West Africa is not too close to Botswana in South Africa, but it’s all still Africa, I suppose.
b) It’s a detective story.
Otherwise, the two authors are not much alike, and if you expect McCall Smith going in, you’ll be disappointed. As for Hillerman, I’ve never read his detective stories set in the Navajo tribal areas of the Southwestern United States. Maybe there are more similarities there.
That being said, I did like Mr. Quartey’s Wife of the Gods. His detective is a bit odd: a marijuana-smoking junior police detective who has a beloved son with a heart condition and a paraplegic brother. Inspector Darko Dawson also has mystery and tragedy in his past: his mother disappeared when Darko was only twelve years old. So, when he’s sent to the village where she disappeared, where his aunt and uncle still live, to solve the murder of a medical student, Darko Dawson is caught up in his own unresolved problems even as he pursues his detective work.
The other part of this book, the part that’s not about Darko and his issues, is about polygamy and infertility and fetish priests and the clash of traditional village culture and religion with modernity. The murder victim is a young crusading medical student whose attempt to end the practice of trokosi, teenage girls offered to appease the gods as concubines to the fetish priest, makes her some enemies. Village life and life in the city of Accra are miles apart, and Darko Dawson must navigate the distance while controlling his temper and dealing with his memories.
I thought this book was a promising start to a projected series of mysteries featuring Detective Inspector Darko Dawson. Mr Quartey, according to his bio, grew up in Ghana, so I’m assuming he gets the setting and the culture right. And I thought some of those details were fascinating. If you’re interested in mysteries or in West Africa . . .
This title will be released on July 14, 2009. I read an ARC thanks to LIbraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.