TLC Book Tour Book Talk: “Wife of the Gods,” by Kwei Quartey

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 by Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods: A Novel
Kwei Quartey

Random House, 2009 (hardcover) (ISBN 1400067596 / 9781400067596)
Fiction, 336 pages

First sentence: “The forest was black and Darko was afraid to enter.”
Teaser: “Mama must have enjoyed her visit tremendously, because three months later she went back to Ketanu. Six days passed, eight, and then ten.” (page 57)
Book description: 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.

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.

Rating: 3.75/5

Buy Wife of the Gods at

Other stops on this TLC Book Tour:

Monday, August 3rd:  A Novel Menagerie
Tuesday, August 4th:  APOOO Books
Wednesday, August 5th:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
Thursday, August 6th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, August 7th:  Beth Fish Reads
Monday, August 10th:  My Friend Amy
Tuesday, August 11th:  Linus’s Blanket
Thursday, August 13th:  Serendipitous Readings
Monday, August 17th:  Maw Books
Tuesday, August 18th:  Bluestalking
Wednesday, August 19th:  Booking Mama
Friday, August 21st:  She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, August 24th:  The Tome Traveller
Wednesday, August 26th:  Shelf Life

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  1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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 :-).