Saturday, September 09, 2017

Ghana Crime Fiction from Kwei Quartey, DEATH BY HIS GRACE

As crime fiction author Kwei Quartey continues to develop his investigative protagonist, Chief Inspector Darko Dawson of the Ghanaian federal police, his writing is growing more intense, more focused, more compelling. You might be the first in your circle of friends to read him -- even though he's already been on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list -- but my experience is, there are a LOT of people I'd like to give his books to, right away. Could there be any better measure of a crime novel?

First, here's a capsule summary of Quartey himself: "Kwei Quartey writes early in the morning before setting out to work at HealthCare Partners, where he runs a wound care clinic and is the lead physician at an urgent care center."

Right? Also, as Quartey's author website mentions, he makes sure to experience for himself the events he'll be describing. For one of his Darko Dawson books, that meant that he "underwent training to enable him to travel on a chopper taking oil workers from shore to the deep-sea rig, which occurs in the story. The training includes how to escape from a helicopter that has crashed in the ocean."

Here at Kingdom Books, Quartey's work (via Soho Crime) has been well liked in the past (reviews here). But DEATH BY HIS GRACE takes the narrative to a more polished level; asks deeper questions (like, how do you compare suspicion of local witchcraft, with manipulation in a big church congregation); and positions Darko Dawson to grow as an investigator who can step beyond his comfort level to see what's motivating the crimes in front of him.

At the heart of the story is a marriage made by a relative of Darko's wife Christine: one in which the new bride isn't getting pregnant on schedule, and the in-laws launch an attack on the marriage on grounds of witchcraft. The bride's side of the conflict involves a minister of a "superchurch" (the kind with huge crowds and management teams). When the conflict turns violent, then deadly, the obvious suspect is of course a spouse -- but what if the extended family members committed the actual crime? Or simply incited it, out of envy and malice?

Further, does the family connection mean Darko shouldn't even be involved here?
Darko was experiencing conflict. Typically, he would have allowed the cumbersome CID machinery to determine how a homicide would be assigned, but this time the murder victim was a family member. Should he lobby to be the chief investigator? The answer wasn't that clear-cut for Darko.
And the situation gets even more complicated when Darko's mother-in-law, always ready to judge him as deficient, demands that he take the case.

Quartey's storytelling has the feel of translated work, even though he's clearly embedded in American culture himself; the slight tilt of the words (more direct narrative, and a quicker pace as a result) gives the book the feel of being "told" by a Ghanaian voice, adding to the experience of exploring this African nation via the experience and views of the characters. Highly recommended -- and published by Soho Crime, at the peak of international crime fiction.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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