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Wife of the Gods: A Novel [Paperback]

Kwei Quartey
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 3, 2010
Introducing Detective Inspector Darko Dawson: dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field—and one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years. When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss to leave behind his loving wife and young son in Ghana’s capital city to lead a murder investigation: In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Dawson is fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, so he’s the right man for the job, but the local police are less than thrilled with an outsider’s interference. 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 inexplicable disappearance. Armed with remarkable insight and a healthy dose of skepticism, Dawson soon finds his cosmopolitan sensibilities clashing with age-old customs, including a disturbing practice in which teenage girls are offered to fetish priests as trokosi, or Wives of the Gods. Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
Lyrical and captivating, Kwei Quartey’s debut novel brings to life the majesty and charm of Ghana–from the capital city of Accra to a small community where long-buried secrets are about to rise to the surface.

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.

This is a compelling and unique mystery, enriched by an exotic setting and a vivid cast. And Inspector Darko Dawson—dedicated family man, rebel in the office, and ace in the field—is one of the most appealing sleuths to come along in years.

Kwei Quartey on Ghana and Wife of the Gods

Wife of the Gods, a novel, is set in Ghana, where I grew up. It is a land of great disparities: privilege and disadvantage, wealth and poverty, high education and illiteracy. There is also a mixing of cultures that may sometimes clash. For example, contemporary, “westernized” medical practice contrasts with traditional healing in which treatments combine lotions and potions with the invocations of the gods, the warding off of curses, and the neutralizing of perceived witchcraft.

In Wife of the Gods, these cultural webs are woven into a murder mystery. The book title itself conjures up in the mind the connection of the physical, tangible world with a realm in which gods dwell. For some in Ghana, the two coexist in everyday life. In the story, a young woman is murdered and protagonist Inspector Darko Dawson soon discovers that some people believe the death is the work of a curse from the gods, or of witchcraft. Darko is a detective. It’s his job to be skeptical, but as he tries to sort through these claims on the path to the shocking truth, his mettle is truly tested.

The belief in the supernatural comes to involve Darko in a personal way. His son, Hosiah, suffers from congenital heart disease. The boy’s grandmother, and the traditional healer to whom she takes him, both believe that evil spirits are occupying the boy’s chest and causing his symptoms.

A physician myself, I would have a well-packaged medical explanation of the mechanism of the Hosiah’s illness, but the evil spirits theory seeks to clarify the why as well as the how. Wearing my writer’s hat, I examine these supernatural notions with curiosity and fascination, realizing that it is as difficult to prove that curses and evil spirits do not exist, as it is to prove they do.

It’s been popularly said that once you’ve been in Ghana, you can’t get Ghana out of you. Wife of the Gods is infused with the flavor of the place, the sights and smells, the traditions of drumming, dancing and libation pouring and the disparities of life that I took for granted as I was growing up in Ghana. Those disparities are rich material for the telling of a mystery story.—Kwei Quartey

(Photo © Steve Monez) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Quartey's winning debut, a police procedural set in modern Ghana, introduces gifted detective Darko Dawson. Dawson leaves the capital city of Accra to investigate a murder in remote Ketanu, where traditional beliefs about the spirit world still reign. He finds no lack of suspects, as the beautiful victim was a married man's impatient mistress and a controversial crusader against AIDS and trokosi, the ancient custom in which young girls become slave wives to local priests. Ketanu is also the village from which Dawson's mother disappeared years before, and his visits awaken a buried need to solve that mystery as well. Dawson is a wonderful creation, a man as rich with contradictions as the Ghana Quartey so delightfully evokes—a loving husband and father with anger management issues on the job and a personal fondness for marijuana. Despite a not hugely exciting denouement, readers will be eager for the next installment in what one hopes will be a long series. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812979362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812979367
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Kwei Quartey is a crime fiction writer and physician living in Pasadena, California. Having practiced medicine for more than 20 years while simultaneously working as a writer, he has attained noteworthy achievements in both fields. Dr. Quartey balances the two professions by dedicating the early morning hours to writing before beginning a day in his clinic.

Kwei Quartey attended medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1990, he began practicing medicine in California with HealthCare Partners. Dr. Quartey later founded the facility's wound care center while working as an urgent care physician.

As a crime fiction writer, Kwei Quartey made the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List in 2009. The following year, the G.O.G. National Book Club awarded him the title of Best Male Author. Having published Wife of the Gods and Children of the Street, he is anticipating the release of a third novel in the series, Murder at Cape Three Points, in March 2014. Death at the Voyager Hotel, a mystery e-novella not belonging to the series, is expected in August 2013. Dr. Quartey is also a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, a fiction writers' organization.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Debut with Detective Dawson June 16, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Kwei Quartay's debut is an entertaining debut that not only focuses on Darko Dawson, the family man and the detective, but immerses the reader in Ghanaian culture and traditions, and introduces a cast of lively characters. The novel opens with the murder of a young AIDS prevention worker in the same remote region Darko's mother disappeared 25 years earlier while visiting her sister. He is assigned to support the local police because he speaks Ewe and dives into the case with a practiced, methodical approach despite objections from the local officials who suspect a young admirer of the victim (and town troublemaker) as the culprit. Darko initially treads carefully as he navigates between modern and traditional worlds; reverence for the tribal priests and practice of trokosi challenges his "progressive" thinking where women are viewed and treated equally to men and his non-belief in witchcraft and sorcery.

Darko is an exceptionally likeable character in that he is not the "perfect" detective; his love of marijuana mars his innocence along with repressed feelings of guilt and loss surrounding his brother's life-altering, childhood accident and his mother's unsolved disappearance. He also has a strained relationship with his father and mother-in-law, for good reasons; but loves his wife and son unconditionally. He is unbelievably human; he makes mistakes along the way, falls to anger which clouds his judgment, and at times, he prematurely jumps to the wrong conclusions at a cost. The other characters via their actions, environmental settings/way of life, and mindset provide the reader with a view into Ghanaian culture, sociology, social services (health care system, law enforcement, etc), which for me, was very enlightening.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great First Novel May 2, 2009
Inspector Darko Dawson has been sent to Ketanu, a village several kilometers away from his home base of Accra, the capital of Ghana, to investigate a murder. He has mixed emotions about going, since Ketanu is the site of his mother's disappearance more than 25 years ago. In fact, he still has relatives living there. While in Ketanu, not only must the urbane Dawson contend with a population fixated on witchcraft, but the murder investigation involves him with many local superstitions, faith healers, and priests with several wives.

While the publisher compares this book to Alexander McCall Smith's 1st Ladies Detective Agency series, the only similarity is the setting. This is a good police procedural, with well developed and believable characters, an engaging setting, and a cleverly twisting plot that kept me guessing until the end.

Dawson is an engaging character-- a dope smoking, firey tempered, independent, 'take no prisoners' detective. He reminds me very much of J.A. Jance's J.P. Beaumont character. While he fights his own demons, sneers at inept superiors and peers, and constantly annoys everyone, he befriends the helpless, listens to his inner senses, and cleverly solves the crime.

Dr. Quartey writes eloquently, in spare but beautiful prose. The book proceeds quickly from the opening to the end, in fact, the cliche 'page-turner' is quite apt. I couldn't put it down. I especially enjoyed having a glossary of Ghanian terms available. It made the dialogue (which is masterful) readily accessible to a reader unfamiliar with the area. It was good to see that he is already working on book #2. Both the character of Dawson and the author have the makings of a great series.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liesurely Paced Murder Mystery June 7, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Meet Darko Dawson, Ghanaian police detective. He's a pretty good detective but he has issues ... although he doesn't drink, he does smoke marijuana. He is an insomniac. He has anger-management problems. His mother disappeared when he was a child. His brother is a paraplegic. His son has a serious heart problem. His mother-in-law is meddlesome and unbearable. His partner is a slacker. He gets sent to a small town out in the sticks to help solve a murder which is too mysterious for the bumbling local cops to handle. Oh, and by the way: Dawson's aunt and uncle live in this small town. It is the last place his mother was seen before she disappeared. As you can guess, Dawson becomes personally involved in the case.

The murder investigation moves slowly, and for most of the book it seems to take a back seat as Dawson deals with personal issues. This is postmodern detective fiction, in which the mystery is almost an afterthought, and the novel is really about something else. Dawson's inner personal conflict is one theme, as is the friction between two parts of Ghana's culture: traditional African magic versus "civilized" Western science. Suspects are eliminated one by one, and the murder case gradually comes into focus as the book progresses. The final reveal of the murderer is rather anti-climactic. By the time you find out who did it, it is no longer a surprise.

The pace is slow and relaxing. The book seems longer than it actually is, but it is not boring or tiresome. The characters are very well fleshed-out and the setting is fascinating. I have never before read a book set in Ghana, so that part of it was a new experience for me. There is a glossary of select Ghanaian words in the back of the book, but it is not necessary to consult the glossary in order to understand the story.

The author's bio says he is working on his next novel, and I think Kwei Quartey may be an author to watch. Well done. Four stars.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Bam!
This book is one of those literary works that just hits you in the head and doesn’t even apologize for it. And the funny thing is you can’t get enough of it. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Damon GR
4.0 out of 5 stars great read
A book that becomes hard to put down. Very suspenseful as you are drawn to like the characters involved. The author words create a visual landscape you can imagine before you. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Cindy Howlett
3.0 out of 5 stars Great to Learn About Ghana
The book had some really interesting information about Ghana. The story line was fairly good and the characters were humorous and memorable!
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I read this for book club and our organizer had the author come out. The experience was great and I plan on reading his other books.
Published 1 month ago by M
4.0 out of 5 stars Besides being a good mistery it's a sociological dip in Ghanas society
It's a good mistery, but if you analyse the story, you will find who did it before the end: the good point of the book is its dip in the ways and means of Ghanain society and the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jacyr Pasternak
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful, evocative novel
A beautiful and powerful introduction to Darko Dawson and aspects of Ghanaian life. Comparisons to Alexander McCalls novels don't do justice to the compelling characters and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Annabelle R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down
What a great read! Kwei Quartey is in total control of his characters (and what great characters they are!) and the many twists and turns the mystery takes. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lookingpast
3.0 out of 5 stars Womens Issues in Tribal Society
It is a very good beginning! I like the other 2 in the series better, but this is a fine start! Many things need to be said about the difficult times women have in tribal... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nancy Gregory
3.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, but a bit predictable
I enjoy reading mysteries set in international locations, and this one did not disappoint in that respect. The overall story was predictable but still enjoyable to read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Charlotte E. Propes
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I enjoyed this book and found the characters engaging and memorable. You'll learn about African culture as you read the book.
Published 2 months ago by Elena Fuentes-afflick
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