Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey, 317 pages
an Inspector Darko Dawson mystery
Women Unbound Challenge
Move over Mma Ramotswe, there is a new African detective, and he's good. Set in Ghana, Darko Dawson is a little rougher, a little darker detective than Mma Ramotswe. He is ruled by his emotions a bit more, and has the edge I like in my detectives. Like Erlunder from the Icelandic series, Dawson has a mystery in his past that has led him into the police force, and this tragedy from his childhood has coloured his dealings in the present.
Quartey has written a great mystery, with a wonderfully exotic setting, well, exotic for little ole me in Canada. Raised in Ghana, Quartey has managed to blend the present and the past, the conflict between old beliefs that are still present with technology. So, Darko might find a shrine in the forest, that can't be touched because the forest gods will be upset and curse a family, but then he takes out his cellphone to take a picture of it. I loved this image and blending of cultures. AIDS in Africa is a dramatic issue, and is included as a major plot point, as it was a health worker, a young girl studying to be a doctor, that is the murder victim.
The culture clash of strong African women, like the victim's aunt Elizabeth, who is accused of being a witch, with the reliance on healers and fetish priests makes this an important book in bringing awareness to women's issues in Ghana. The fetish priests are healers that are respected in the community. If a family feels they have been cursed with bad luck, they may make an offering to the priest of a young daughter. She then becomes one of the wives of the priest, essentially a slave to him, in exchange for clearing the family of its curse. Walking the line between respecting traditions and respecting women and their right to chose how to live their life is a balancing act for people from the city.
I really liked how Darko associates voices with textures. He describes how he 'hears' each voice he meets - like a rope, like the back of a toad. It was a really interesting perspective to put into words what some people probably unconsciously do. My daughter would sometimes describe textures that way, in a most unusual description, but made sense to her.
I look forward to more in this series. Darko has been given a great introduction, and the background of the village and many characters and interactions suggest a great future. The mystery itself was well done, with several suspects possible and I kept changing who I thought was the murderer. The glossary at the back giving an explanation of the foods and words was a nice addition. Plus, isn't the cover beautiful?