The Missing American Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Accra private investigator Emma Djan's first missing persons case will lead her to the darkest depths of the email scams and fetish priests in Ghana, the world's internet capital.
When her dreams of rising through the Accra police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her career. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency that takes on cases of missing persons, theft, and infidelity. It's not the future she imagined, but it's her best option.
Meanwhile, Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington, DC, has found solace in an online community after his wife's passing. Through the support group, he's even met a young Ghanaian widow he's come to care about. When her sister gets into a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill - to the horror of his only son, Derek. Then Gordon decides to surprise his new love by paying her a visit - and disappears. Fearing for his father's life, Derek follows him across the world to Ghana, internet capital of the world, where he and Emma will find themselves deep in a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and those willing to kill to protect their secrets.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 15 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||January 14, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #102,891 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#514 in Private Investigator Mysteries (Audible Books & Originals)
#673 in International Mystery & Crime (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,979 in Women Sleuth Mysteries
Reviewed in the United States on January 16, 2020
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A hapless American falls in love online with a Ghanaian woman
The “missing American” is Gordon Tilson, a retired businessman and widower in Washington, DC, who travels to Ghana to meet the lovely Ghanaian woman he’s met online and fallen in love with. But we don’t meet Gordon, or learn the story of how he became infatuated with “Helena” until long after becoming acquainted with the cast of characters in Accra who share the spotlight with him. They span the spectrum from the most senior reaches of the Ghanaian police to the sakawa boys who make their often opulent living by cheating Europeans and Americans through a variety of online scams.
A grim view of African society today
Among the vivid characters you’ll meet in The Missing American are:
** Emma Djan, a constable in the Ghana Police Service (GPS), who is the protagonist of a planned series of thrillers of which this novel is the first
** The corrupt Inspector General of Police, James Akrofi, an intimate friend of Ghana’s president since childhood, and his wife Josephine
** Akrofi’s immediate subordinate, Cleophus Laryea, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, a sexual predator
** Nii Kwei, the sakawa boy who defrauds Gordon Tilson, and his gang
** Kweku Ponsu, a “fetish priest” with whom a stable of sakawa boys share their plunder in the belief that he imbues them with superpowers
** Ghanaian investigative journalist Sana Sana, who is on a crusade to unmask the officials who enable the sakawa boys
** Detective Inspector Doris Damptey and the mixed bag of her fellow senior officers in the GPS
A grim tale about those “online Nigerian scams”
As you can discern, the story in The Missing American revolves around the all-too-real phenomenon of Internet fraud that is a continuing reality in Ghana. And Quartey’s picture of the sakawa system is fascinating. The idea originated “in Nigeria, where it was called ‘419’ after a section in Nigeria’s criminal code. The origins dated to much earlier than most people realized—as far back as 1920. Now, the notorious old 419 scams with Nigerian ‘princes’ were all but gone, replaced by more effective Internet scams.” But those scams resembled nothing like the strictly businesslike online scams coming from Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In Ghana, the sakawa boys operate in thrall to traditional fetish priests who insist their obscure rituals are the secret of the boys’ success.
The action in The Missing American unfolds over a period of five months, from early January to mid-May. Much of the story spins out in chronological order, but Quartey repeatedly circles back to past events to clarify and explain the otherwise mysterious course of events. All in all, this portrait of one aspect of the downside of African society today is a satisfying and endlessly interesting read.
About the author
Born in Accra and educated in Ghana and at Howard University and UCLA, Kwei Quartey is a retired surgeon who has written seven novels to date. He practiced medicine in California for twenty years.
THE MISSING AMERICAN introduces the young PI Emma Djan, a 26-year-old Ghanaian woman who, following in her father’s footsteps, longs to be a homicide detective but is instead placed in a police bureaucracy that has her investigating dull financial cases and facing sexual harassment from her superior in the Criminal Investigation Department. The latter ultimately lands her in a situation that gets her sacked from the CID—but it’s a blessing in disguise, as she is hired at a local private investigation agency where her ambitions are better fulfilled and her talents respected.
Emma Djan is almost immediately drawn into the investigation of a missing American man, Gordon Tilson, who arrived in Ghana in hopes of meeting a beautiful woman he met online. That woman turns out to be a fraud run by one of Ghana’s infamous sakawa boys, a ring of criminal who combine cybercrimes with “traditional” rituals that allegedly enhance their power to swindle unsuspecting foreigners.
The bewildering details and rituals of sakawa are vividly rendered by Quartey in his unique and at times hypnotic prose. Where other authors may have glossed over some of these details, Quartery spares us none, which allows the reader a much richer understanding of what is at stake. We meet several of the sakawa boys and the fetish priest, Kewku Ponsu, from whom they seek their supernatural enablement and around whom they revolve. Ponsu is but one of the memorable characters in THE MISSING AMERICAN—and there are a lot of them!
One of the most enigmatic characters is a powerful investigative journalist, Sana Sana, whose reports reveal the perpetrators of crimes and corruption at the highest levels. With so much at stake, Sana Sana fiercely guards his anonymity, veils himself behind a curtain of beads when meeting with people and undertakes a plethora of security measures before going anywhere. His investigation into saakawa means his path intersects with everyone from Gordon Tilson to Emma Djan.
This is a long novel that is rewarding on a number of levels. The Ghanaian setting will be unfamiliar to most readers, but Quartey is a gifted guide through its sights, smells, and tastes. His rendering of the places, ethnic groups, and even dialects and pidgin English, is expert. There are many crimes in the book, not just the internet scams, but of course murder, too. (We know from the title that someone goes missing.) The mystery elements are not so much of a shock or surprise; but, like a great work of detection, they are presented and solved alongside the progress of Emma Djan. The suspenseful pulse of the book is derived from the many loose-end elements of the plot and subplots that require satisfying resolutions.
Quartey brings one corner of the planet alive by mining realistic details of life and crime in contemporary Ghana and weaving them into a compelling and entertaining narrative. The sakawa boy really are a huge problem in global cybercrime and in local politics. Sana Sana may be based on a real investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who maintains his anonymity nearly identically to the way Quartey describes his fictional counterpart. The Ghanaian locations, cities, landmarks, foods, slang are all credibly portrayed and thereby lend the most enjoyable details to this most delicious and spellbinding novel.
This book deals with the internet scams coming out of Ghana. An American travels to Ghana to meet his online love only not to have her turn up to meet him. He stays instead of coming home. He wants to get to the bottom of what happened to him. He disappears and his son Derek arrives from America to search for his father.
Emma is the investigator along with her boss in the disappearance. She is admirable. She is tenacious and doesn't quit when she is told she has done her part. Looking forward to the next book about Emma's new case.
Top reviews from other countries
The tale here is that of a wealthy American widower; scammed and left feeling like an idiot. What he then goes on to do is an object lesson to us all in how to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole.
I found the character of the ‘fetish priest’, Ponsu, fascinating. These men, and maybe women, act as facilitators to the individuals doing the scamming. In their way, they are management training consultants. Their methods may appear at odds to westerners. I do not recall being asked to bring live chickens or used knickers to any training session but, it all comes down to instilling self belief so I’m not about to knock it.
As is made clear in the book, these sort of scams continue to flourish as their victims live on the other side of the world and are too ashamed to confess to having been made a fool of and cheated out of a substantial sum of money.
Reading about the methodology of the scams themselves was both illuminating and terrifying.
The story gives a less than favourable impression of Ghana. It concentrated on young men (sakawa boys)becoming very wealthy through internet scams if they became successful in their fraudulent business. The most ambitious were under the spell of a fetish priest (witch doctor) and were forced to undergo horrific rituals, believing they would attract more money. At the top was a mysterious Godfather who was getting a percentage of the illegal, ill-gained money from overseas. The story also focused on corruption among politicians, an ineffective police force, and even assassination and murder.
When I was a tourist in Ghana, I was unaware of any of the crimes. I did notice the gap between the wealthy and their servants, such as their household staff and the ones who drove them in their luxury vehicles. I did enjoy the friendly people, the tourist sites, and the native food frequently mentioned in the book.
One of the victims was Gordon, who was living in Washington, D.C. He was a pleasant, friendly widower, but a man who was naive and easily persuaded. He had been in the Peace Corps in Ghana, married a native woman who later died, and had visited the country many times. He seemed obsessed with Ghana's women and believed he was in love with a beautiful woman from Ghana he met online.
After sending this fictitious woman thousands of dollars, he decided to go to Ghana to meet her.
It says something about his character that he slept with a wealthy woman from Ghana, whose husband was a powerful man in that country just before his flight. His son, Derek, became aware of his correspondence and his money transfers and warned Gordon that he was undoubtedly the victim of a scam. Gordon refused to believe he was being defrauded. Once he landed in Ghana, he realized that Derek's suspicions were correct and that the woman did not exist. A friend back home, Cas, dissuaded him from returning home. Cas was a journalist and persuaded Gordon to remain there to investigate the rampant internet frauds. He was using the impressionable Gordon to gain information for a story he wanted to write. This targeted Gordon by some dangerous foes, and he went missing.
In the meantime, Emma, a young policewoman, was bored by the routine tasks she was given. She wanted to work in the homicide division. After approaching the head of the police department with her request, the man attempted to rape her. Falsehoods were spread about her, resulting in her being fired. Later, she was hired by an honest private detective agency. She impressed them with her diligence. Derek employed the agency to find his father after becoming discouraged by the police's lack of attention. Emma's task was now the search for Gordon by following his path until his disappearance. This put her in extreme danger.
The plot was interesting and complex. However, I was not engaged in the tension and suspense, and most characters were undeveloped. I hope this story serves as a warning to vulnerable people who may become victims of the sakawa boys and those who profit from their scams.