Thursday, August 06, 2009

Review: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey (& a Giveaway)

"So cold," he murmured. "Once she was warm and breathing."

It was what he could never quite get his mind around--not just how complex life was, but why it was so easy for life to leave a person once so complex. [excerpt from Wife of the Gods]

Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
Random House, 2009 (ARE)
Crime Fiction; 319 pgs

When I first saw mention of Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the Gods, I knew I had to read it. I can’t resist a crime fiction novel, especially one set in a country other than my own. I get to learn about another country and culture while at the same time settling in with the comfort of the familiar format of a mystery.

Kwei Quartey’s protagonist, Darko Dawson is the kind of detective I would want investigating my murder. He has a dogged determination and a strong sense of right and wrong—at least where others are concerned. Righteous is the word that comes to mind, but not in an arrogant or overbearing way. Darko is anything but perfect though. He has a weakness for marijuana and a bit of a temper which lands him in plenty of trouble.

The novel is set in the beautiful country of Ghana. Quartey paints a portrait of a complex society, one that straddles the old traditions and the new. In a community where witchcraft is feared and superstitions are commonplace, science is still trying to find a foothold. Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a modern man. He trusts in science and facts to solve his cases. When he is assigned to Ketanu, a small out of the way community, to aid in the murder investigation of a volunteer AIDS worker, he comes face to face with the very superstitions he disdains.

The Chief Inspector of Ketanu has his eyes set on a particular young man as his suspect, but Darko isn’t convinced. He sets out on his own investigation, determined to solve the murder.

Darko’s mother disappeared after a visit to Ketanu over twenty years before while visiting her sister who lived in the town. Perhaps he can look into her disappearance while there as well. It’s a long shot after so many years, but he at least wants to give it a try.

I have seen this book compared to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and I have to disagree. Smith’s series is not much of a crime fiction series at all—and if you go into those books expecting a mystery, you may well be disappointed. With Quartey’s book, on the other hand, a mystery is exactly what you get. It’s also a bit darker in some respects, than Smith’s series.

There was so much I liked about this series, including the various interesting characters, the flashbacks into Darko’s past and the unfolding of the mystery of his mother’s disappearance as well as the murder of that young volunteer. There was a moment early on in the book when I thought one story thread might get lost in other, but fortunately that did not happen.

Another aspect that especially caught my attention was the health department and volunteers like the murdered woman who struggle to reach a population of people who are very entrenched in the old ways. The misinformation and superstitions surrounding AIDS is frightening. Add to that the issue of fetish priests and the practice of families marrying off their teenage daughters to them in hopes of turning around bad luck or getting rid of a curse. Quartey offers both sides of these issues to some extent, but it is clear which side Darko falls on.

Wife of the Gods is a promising start for a new series. There are many characters, including Armah, Darko’s inspiration and mentor, that I hope I can visit again. And I do hope I haven’t seen the last of Elizabeth Mensah. She’s an admirable and strong woman. Kwei Quartey is definitely an author to watch.

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge, New Authors Challenge & 2009 Pub Challenge

To learn more about the author, Kwei Quartey, and his book, visit his website. Visit TLC Book Tours for a list of Kwei Quartey's tour stops!

Interested in winning a copy of Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey? Here's how you can enter the drawing for a chance to win:
  • Leave a comment along with an e-mail address where I can contact you if it is not easily accessible on your blog or profile page.
  • To be entered, you MUST answer the following question: Who is one of your favorite fictional detectives?
  • Open to anyone with a valid mailing address.
  • Deadline to enter is August 22nd at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Many thanks to author Kwei Quartey and TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Review copy provided by LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program (via the publisher) and giveaway copy provided by the publisher.

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Loved loved loved your review! Thanks for your honesty!

  2. I've seen reviews of this one before. Excellent review!

  3. Great review. One of my favorite fictional detectives is Harry Haristeen from the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown. Yes, I know they're rather cheesy, but I still enjoy them. Thanks for the great giveaway. milou2ster(at)

  4. Wife of the Gods looks like a great read! My all-time favourite fictional detective is Rebus, from the Ian Rankin books, and, of course, I love reading about Mma Ramotswe.

  5. I added this to my wishlist based on another review and I'd love a chance to win a copy :)
    stacybooks at yahoo

  6. This series sounds very promising!! I have to admit that I love my cozy mysteries. Jim Qwilleran of the "Cat Who" mysteries is a favorite as is Agatha Raisin of MC Beaton's "Agatha Raisin" series.

    (Life by Candlelight)

  7. Great review, Wendy!! It sounds so good. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review Wife of the Gods!

  8. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, Wendy (although I thought you would). The only similarity it has with the series written by Smith is that both take place in Africa. I'm noticing that, as more African mysteries appear on the scene, publishers think the only way to get them "out there" is by bringing up Smith's books. Any real likeness is secondary. :)

  9. This sounds pretty inteteresting! Thanks for the review.

    My current fave detective is Vish Puri, from a recent book I read called "The Case of the Missing Servant." Someone new and different - at least to me!

    e-mail: thekittyknitterATverizonDOTnet

  10. I'm not entering the giveaway, as I'm currently reading this book myself (I'm touring it next week), but I did want to get your impressions on it. I was a little confused at the beginning, but I'm really getting into it now.

    Did you get to go to any of the author's local book signings? I wanted to, but between my trip to Chicago and some family stuff, it didn't quite work out.

  11. I love to learn about new mysteries!

    One of my favorite mystery detectives is Inspector Salvo Montalbano from Sicily (written by Andrea Camilleri)

    Old school favorite is Tuppence of Tommy and Tuppence by Agatha Christie.
    I could go on like this for a while - I'm glad you said '0ne of your favorite' because I could never pick just one!

  12. Yes, yes yes, thanks for saying that about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency! That comparison, (made I believe b/c both books are set on the African continent) has been driving me nuts. I really enjoyed this book!

  13. I am glad you enjoyed this book so much. I really wish I spent more time reading books set elsewhere. I may have to check this one out...
    (Please don't enter me... I just wanted to comment that I really enjoyed your review! :))

  14. I've been on the fence about this one, but your review makes me think I might really enjoy it. And I LOVE the quote you chose!!

  15. Great review, Wendy! This book sounds good to me!

  16. My absolute favorite fictional detective is Miss Marple. Agatha, you are my favorite mystery writer. Actually, I don't care for mysteries too much, so the fact I love Agatha Christie so much really says something about her.

    Great review by the way, I am totally interested!

  17. Dear Wendy

    Thank you so much for a fabulous review. I know how much time and effort it takes, and believe me, I don't take it for granted in the least bit. It's greatly appreciated. The book world is not easy. Thanks again, and what a great feline photo!

    Kwei Quartey
    Author of WIFE OF THE GODS

  18. Hi Wendy, no need to enter me for the giveaway, but I would still like to say hello and thanks for the review!

  19. What a great giveaway. My favourite detective and the one I always go back to is Rebus by Ian Rankin.

  20. This sounds like a great new series! I'd love to have my name thrown in the hat.

    A favourite detective... hmmm... I can't choose but since I recently read my second Mankell, I'd say Kurt Wallander. Or Inspector Gamache from Louise Penny's series. Or John Cardinal from Giles Blunt's series. LOL. Those are the ones I've read most recently anyway. :P

    tanabata2000 at gmail dot com

  21. Excellent review Wendy! You confirmed pretty much what I thought...I must read this book!!!

  22. I've seen this book making the rounds and love mysteries. I have a good friend who is from Ghana; it would be interesting to learn about his native land.

    My favorite mystery detective is sherlock holmes in classic literature--isn't he every mystery readers' favorite?

    Favorite contemporary detective would be Alex Cross from James Patterson's series. He's flawed, vulnerable, intelligent, and tough.

    I'd love a chance to read this book. Thanks for a great review and giveaway.

    savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

  23. Thanks to everyone who has entered so far!

    Sheri, Sandy, Melody, Stacy, Alice, & Staci - Thank you! It was a fun read.

    Kathy - Thanks! I haven't yet read a Rita Mae Brown book yet, but she's on my list to try. Even cheesy is good sometimes. Nothing wrong with that. :-)

    Claire - Mma Ramostwe is a favorite of mine too. I love that series. :-) I haven't yet read any of Rankin's books, but I do want to. I've heard great things about his series.

    Amy - I liked the one MC Beaton book I read, but I haven't tried any of her others yet. My husband's read several of the "Cat Who" books. They aren't exactly his type but we've saved them because he's sure I'll like them more. :-)

    Lisa - Thank you and thank you for letting me be a part of the tour!

  24. Cathy - Yes, you did say that I would enjoy this one. :-) I imagine having McCall Smith's name on a book helps boost sales--but you know how annoying that can be to someone who is expecting one thing only to find they get something else completely.

    Bridget - One I haven't heard of! Thanks for bringing Vish Puri to my attention!

    Florinda - I can't wait to read your thoughts on this one, Florinda.

    I had hoped to go to the book signing at the beginning of the month but wasn't able to make it. I was so disappointed. :-(

    Elizabeth (raidergirl3) - So do I! It's probably one of the biggest downfalls of me trying to keep my TBR collection down. I've been wanting to meet Salvo Montalbano for awhile now. I've heard great things about the series.

    And Agatha Christie. She definitely earned her title as the Queen of Mystery.

    MyFriendAmy - I am glad you enjoyed this one too! I think most of us who read a lot know not to trust those comparisons anymore, but sometimes they get by us anyway.

  25. Kristie - Thank you, Kristie. I've especially become interested in mysteries set in other countries (besides England) in the last couple of years. I don't know how they escaped my notice before that.

    Elizabeth - I hope you will give it a try!

    Kim - I love Miss Marple! Agatha Christie is a great mystery author.

    Jennifer - Rankin's an author I have yet to try that I've been meaning to. :-)

    Nat - It was a fun read. I'm glad I got the chance to read it. :-) Mankell and Penny are both on my must read list. As is Blunt. So many I want to read! I hope I can get to even half of them before I die.

    Serena - I wonder what your friend would think of the book. :-) I had a pen pal for many years who lived in Ghana. He wrote much like the characters in Quartey's novel spoke. So polite. I wonder what happened to him . . . I hope he is happy. :-)

    I really like Alex Cross too. I haven't read all the books in Patterson's series, but several of the first few books at least.

    I need to try another Sherlock Holmes book. The only one I've read had so little of him in it.

  26. Mr. Quartey - You make it easy to write a good review when you write such a great book. I look forward to reading more by you in the future!

  27. I'm still reading this one, so I just skimmed your review. But I'm still trying to figure out why it's been compared to McCall's books (which I really don't like at all). I love this one so far.

  28. This is on my wish list.

    And as for as my favourite fictional detective goes, Sherlock Holmes wins hands down!

    Please do count me in for this!


  29. Beth - I am so glad you are enjoying Wife of the Gods so far, Beth. It really isn't like Smith's books at all. I think the African setting is what makes people draw the comparison.

    Gautami - Sherlock Holmes is a good one. :-) Thanks for entering!

  30. Wow, this sounds like a really good one! And as far as my fictional detective, my immediate thought is Lindsay Boxer from the Women's Murder Club books. That's still one series that I cannot resist.

  31. Christine - I think you would like it. I still haven't managed to read any of the Women's Murder Club books. I need to try it one of these days.

  32. Nancy Drew is still my favourite fictional detective.
    Please enter my name in your draw.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  33. hello bookish kitty,
    (sorry - couldn't resist!)
    my first time here, found you by searching for info about this book-
    as a lover of alexander mccall's series, i am so happy to see another author begin a series set in africa! the story sounds fascinating.
    please count me in.

    my favorite literary detectives apart from precious ramotswe are amelia peabody (19th century egypt) and marcus didius falco (imperial rome)

    mayamissani AT yahoo DOT ca

  34. Mary
    zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

    This one sure sounds like an interesting book - I like the characterizations as well as the exotic locale ( it is very hard to imagine a culture where superstition still has such a great influence on the general populace), anyway, I would dearly love to read this!
    AND my favorite (thus far) detective is Aloscious Pendegrast (spelling is no doubt wrong lol) of the Preston & Child series!

    Thanks for introducing me to your blog site as well as a talented author :)

  35. Great review, and thanks for the great giveaway!

    A few of my fave detectives are Stone Barrington (he gets into some crazy scrapes) and Lucas Davenport.

  36. I love Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton's books. She's dry and strong and have really enjoyed her.

    This book looks great. Thanks for sharing it~

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

  37. I just never got over Nancy Drew!


  38. Shawna Lewis

    I love Alex Cross!!!
    Thanks for this chance to win this book!!
    Winks ;o) Shawna

  39. Thanks-favorite detective Inspector Gamache.

    I think our kitties are related-I will send you a photo.

    chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

  40. My favorite character is Lucas Davenport. Love the prey books. Nice to meet your blog.

  41. Thanks for the introduction to a new mystery series. One of my favorite characters is Hamish Macbeth. I'm glad to have found your blog.

  42. Hamish Macbeth is wonderfull solving crimes in Scotland. Loved No. 1 Ladies Detection Agency, this doesn't sound like the same thing.
    Theresa N


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