I was provided with a copy of this book to review courtesy of TLC Book Tours; I received no other compensation.
Wife of the Gods: A Novel
Random House, 2009 (hardcover) (ISBN 1400067596 / 9781400067596)
Fiction, 336 pages
Comments: I’ve said more than once that I don’t read a lot of genre fiction, but there are some genres I do like to explore sometimes. One of my favorite forms of escapist reading used to be legal thrillers, and mystery and crime fiction aren’t too many steps removed. Besides, it’s fun to try to stay a step ahead or two of the character who’s trying to figure out “whodunit” (and sometimes, exactly what they “dun”) – and even more fun when you discover you really didn’t quite have it figured out after all.
In his first novel, Wife of the Gods, Kwei Quartey introduces us to an intriguing lead character, an exotic setting, and a story that takes some compelling twists and turns along the way. When a young female medical student is murdered in the forest between two small villages in the Volta Region of Ghana, big-city detective Darko Dawson is sent to take over the investigation from the tiny local police force. Dawson knows the native language and has a history with the villages; his mother came from the area, and it was the last place she was seen before her disappearance 25 years earlier. Perhaps his work investigating Gladys Mensah’s murder might also lead him to some answers about what happened to his mother, but meanwhile, the case raises plenty of its own questions. Who would want to kill this bright and promising young woman – and why? Were local traditionalists threatened by her modern medical knowledge and efforts to educate about AIDS, and by her campaign against the trokosi tradition in the village of Bedome? Or was there a less complex motive? The only thing that seems certain is that the local police inspector’s chosen suspect is probably not guilty of the crime.
Quartey weaves several themes into the story – the contrast and conflict between old beliefs and modern ways in West Africa, the crisis of AIDS on the continent – but ultimately, it’s a mystery, and I wanted to find out what happened. I liked the way so much of the story was told via the setting and characters. The story takes detours that don’t seem to have much to do with the primary plot, but they establish and help define the characters through showing what they do and how they think, rather than just describing it, which I found appealing. Quartey has created some fascinating characters here, particularly his protagonist, Detective Inspector Darko Dawson. He’s not always the most likable guy – he has an impulsive temper and some less-than-admirable habits – but he is dedicated to his family, and takes his work seriously and personally. As he pursued various leads and potential suspects – each of whom had a specific, unique reason for wanting Gladys Mensah out of the way – I was completely along for the ride, trying to solve the case alongside him. And when I realized just before the end that I wasn’t quite on the right track, I was actually glad – I enjoyed the challenge, but I really wanted Dawson to solve the case and not me.
This book is intended to be the first in a series, and I think I just might be along for the ride on Dawson’s next adventure as well. I enjoyed my foray into the world and the characters that Kwei Quartey created in his native country of Ghana – although he is now a physician in Pasadena, California – and would like to visit it again, with Dawson and whatever mystery comes his way next.
Other stops on this TLC Book Tour:
I am glad you enjoyed Wife of the Gods, Florinda. I liked how the author brought out the setting too as a way for us to explore the characters more. Great review!
Thank you for being a guest on my blog! I really appreciate it. 🙂
I really enjoyed this – the setting was fascinating to me, the cultural contrast (tradition vs. modern), and the character development.
yes, you have a great point – all those details SHOW the reader more about the character than a straight description would have.
Like you, I let Darko solve the case; I don't read a lot of mysteries, so I didn't look for clues or set-ups along the way.
This appeals to me because of the setting. The cover is great too.
Interesting review! I think a book is that much better when those who don't normally read that genre enjoy the book.
I didn't realize this will become a series. I better read it soon! 🙂
Thanks for the review, Florinda!
Wendy (Literary Feline) – I can see why this particular genre appeals to you when I read a book like this one :-).
And thanks for welcoming me so nicely to guest post for you this week!
Dawn – It was really tempting to try to figure out the case, but I tried to hold back and not try too hard :-).
I was a little bit confused at the very beginning, but once Dawson got on the case and things got moving, I was right into it.
Kathy (Bermudaonion) – I like the cover too, but my husband said, "If she's the wife of the gods, you'd think she'd have a nicer dress." Such a comic :-).
Trish – I agree; I think it's called "crossover appeal," and if you ask me, it's a good thing for a book to have!
And I think you still have some time to read this one before the next book is out :-).
I think my favorite thing about the book was the setting! And, the plantains!
Sheri (Menagerie) – I'm not sure the plantains made much of an impression on me, to be honest :-).
I tend to enjoyes mysteries, and the setting for this one makes it stand out. I'm definitely adding it to my wish list.
It was a good book, I cannot wait until the next installment is out.
Carol – Good call :-).
Marci – I don't think we'll have to wait too long.
I've heard some good things about this book. Glad to see you enjoyed it.
Diary of an Eccentric
Anna – I did like it, and as you note, it seems to be getting a good reception.