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Wife of the Gods: A Novel Paperback – August 3, 2010
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The murder of a young med student brings Det. Insp. Darko Dawson from his police department in Ghana's capital, Accra, to the smalltown of Ketanu, where some dark secrets of his own lie buried. In returning to this familiar landscape, Dawson looks to solve this murder as well as unlock the secrets surrounding the disappearance of his mother so many years ago. Quartey delivers an intriguing and enjoyable mystery set against the backdrop of a Ghana in turmoil over its changing cultural values, from its traditional roots into a disconnected, modernized world. With a crisp English accent and deep but deliberate projection, Simon Prebble is a boon to any production. He creates clear and distinct voices that make it easy to follow the different speaking roles, regardless of the African names that listeners may not be familiar with. His narration is consistent and compelling in his rhythm and emphasis, and blends beautifully with Quartey's style. A Random hardcover. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Well developed characters
Had a very realistic feel.
Surprising twists in plot.
Helpful glossary in the back of unique Ghanian words.
Main character smokes marijuana a lot. Smoking in any novel is a huge turn-off to me, so I cannot give this book higher than 4 stars. I know people in reality smoke, I just do not want to read about it, and prefer books which have characters who do not smoke.
Overall my grade is a B
The novels title, 'Wife of the Gods', refers to a local tradition, the "trokosi": young girls are "offered" to the fetish priest to sacrifice their lives at the religious shrine to atone for a crime comitted by one member of their family. When they are old enough, the young women serve the priest in every way and bear his children. Gladys Mensah, a volunteer with the Ghana Health Service, has been supporting the "wives" in whatever way possible. The spread of AIDS is one serious concern to her. One day Gladys is found dead in the forest and DI Darko Dawson is sent from Accra to ensure that the guilty person is convicted of the crime...
Darko is a personable sort of character, a family man, usually jovial, yet with a few flaws of character, and his own sense of justice - sometimes. His assignment takes him back to that forest of his childhood nightmares and Ketanu, the village that he had not visited in 25 years, since his mother didn't return from a stay at her sister's place there. There is much ground to cover in this novel, starting with the murder suspects, the victim and her environment, and the fetish priest, his "trokosi" and their surroundings to the actual details of the murder investigation. While, understandably in a cross-genre novel like this, not all aspects can be covered with as much detail or depth as I for one would have liked, Quartey does provide good insights into the conflicts that are affecting remote rural communities like Ketanu. At the same time, I found the essence of the murder mystery component less satisfactory. After some detractions and sidelining leads, Dawson seems to be less smart than the reader in identifying the real culprit. The ending was predictable and somewhat disappointing for me. Still, this being Quartey's first foray into the world of fiction and murder mysteries, I look forward to the next adventure of DI Dawson. [Friederike Knabe]
As the book went on I could never figure out who killed her. Well, I did guess the right person. I just couldn't come up with their motive or motives for murder. While Dawson hunts down Gladys Mensha's killer, he also contends with problems at home. His son has a hole in his heart and needs treatment. It is during this situation that Dawson's flaw in character shows up. When a medicine healer is careless while giving treatment to Christine and Dawson's son, Dawson flips out. His way of reacting seems over the top.
I did like the fact that the detective/policeman wasn't perfect. At the same time, I wanted Dawson to quickly take anger management classes. In the novel, there are other police officers who seem to have anger problems. In this instance, I felt sickened by the way Samuel is treated after he is arrested and jailed. He is almost forced to make a confession of guilt. His treatment is ghastly. Is the way we get statements from people in some police precincts here or abroad so reckless and brutal? I pray not. Samuel is one of the unforgettable characters in the novel.
I think most of the incidents in Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey are quite serious and not to be flipped over. He gives so much information about family life, religion and justice in Africa. I look forward to heading back there with Kwei Quartey and eating cooked plaintains along the way in another mystery.kweiquartey.com/