Summary and book reviews of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods

A Novel

by Kwei Quartey

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey X
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2009, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2010, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

INSPECTOR MAX FITI had great significance in a place that had little. He was the head of police in Ketanu, a small town in the Adaklu-Anyigbe District of Ghana's Volta Region. All he had was a small police station as ragged as a stray dog, two constables, and an old police vehicle that ran erratically, but when there was trouble, people turned to Fiti.  

Case in point: Charles Mensah, a fortyish man with a painfully thin body and a bulbous head like a soldier termite, had just come into his office this morning to report his sister missing.

"When did you last see Gladys?" Fiti asked.

"Yesterday afternoon, around three," Charles said. "Just before she left for Bedome."  

"She went to Bedome? To do what?"  

"You know she's a volunteer with the Ghana Health Service AIDS outreach. She goes to different villages to teach and so on."   "Aha, yes."  

The village of Bedome was east of Ketanu on the other side of the forest.  

"When she didn...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Fans of the hard-boiled mystery genre will undoubtedly want to add this one to their lists. In addition, book groups that can overlook the novel's flaws will find ample topics for conversation beyond its basic plot...continued

Full Review (940 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Los Angeles Times - Tim Rutten
Wife of the Gods is not simply an extraordinarily well-crafted mystery; it's also an extremely well-structured and deftly written novel.

Publishers Weekly
Despite a not hugely exciting denouement, readers will be eager for the next installment in what one hopes will be a long series.

Kirkus Reviews
Quartey's approach to detective work is less charming and more sociological than McCall Smith's, his setting more rural and susceptible to the ways of magicians. There's plenty of room for them both, and the newcomer is most welcome.

Booklist
Starred Review. Crisp, engrossing debut…. Fans of McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels will relish the opportunity to discover yet another intriguing area of Africa.

Library Journal
This well-crafted first novel is a smart purchase for all libraries and a great choice for a book club discussion.

Reader Reviews

Kelli Robinson

Good Mystery Set in Ghana
This was a quick read and a good mystery. I appreciated being transported to Ghana and I was intrigued by the clash between traditional customs (i.e., faith healers, polygamy) and modern medicine (i.e., AIDS education). This wonderful blend seemed ...   Read More
Beverly

Murder Unravels Secrets
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey is an impressive debut, a murder mystery set in modern Ghana. The reader quickly learns the mystery is who killed Gladys, a promising medical student, as she was on her way home to Ketanu, a small village in the Volta...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Child-Wives of the Gods

Wife of the Gods refers to a practice in Ghana known as trokosi.  A trokosi is a young girl who is given to the village priest, also known as a fetish priest, to atone for a perceived sin committed by a family member; the custom is basically a form of sanctioned slavery.  It is practiced primarily in the Volta region of southeast Ghana by members of the Ewe tribe, but also in parts of Benin, Nigeria and Togo, where it is known as voodoosi or vudusi.  It is believed the practice began in Togo and Benin as a war ritual in the 1600s.  Before combat, warriors would offer women to the war gods in exchange for victory and a safe homecoming. 

The trokosi tradition is part of the traditional fetish belief system, in ...

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