Friday, October 29, 2010

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods: A Novel
Scott Card (one of my favorite authors) has an interesting discussion on his Uncle Orson Reviews Everything site about the difference between the two Inspectors in Wife of the Gods, Fiti and Dawson, so I won't go there. This was an interesting departure for me. Most of the mysteries I read take place in U.S. locations, and this one took place in Ghana. I've also been reading the alternate history mysteries set in Great Britain lately, so maybe I'm being more cosmopolitan every day.

Inspector Darko Dawson has been called in to investigate the murder of a Health Organization worker, a young woman named Gladys Mensah. He leaves his home in the Ghanan city of Accra and goes to the small town of Ketanu, where he encounters both small town attitudes and primitive superstitions, even among the professionals helping him try to solve the murder.

Darko has a personal tie to Ketanu, as his aunt, uncle and cousing live there, and it was on her way home from Ketanu many years ago that his mother disappeared. So, at least he encounters some friendly faces during his visit, as he is able to spend time with his family there. I don't know if red herring is exactly the right term in this context, "red plantain" perhaps? Quartey lays down plenty of false trails for Inspector Dawson to follow and for the reader to get distracted by in this book.

Quartey makes the native customs come alive in Wife of the Gods. Indeed, the title refers to a group of women who were taken from their families while very young, for some imagined offense, and sent to live with the local witch doctor, eventually marrying him. Right or wrong, stereotypically, his treatment of the women is horrendous. There's a lot of disdain for women floating around in the book, as most of the male characters are abusive, unfaithful, or contemptuous of the women around them. Darko seems to have a decent streak, though, and eventually rescues some of the women from their tormenter.

I figured out who the murderer was pretty early in the game, but it came as an unpleasant surprise to the Inspector. A little slow, but an ok read.

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