Friday, February 24, 2023

Brief Mention: LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ, by Kwei Quartey

Collecting international crime fiction? Ghana-born physician and author Kwei Quartey's Darko Dawson series, set mostly in Ghana, has been a pleasure; Quartey's current series is a spinoff that features Emma Djan, a private detective always alert to gender discrimination as she works her way up in a local agency (the police force dumped her, early in the series).

LAST SEE IN LAPAZ opens with the disappearance of a young Nigerian woman, daughter of a friend of the agency owner. (Lapaz is a town in the Accra Metropolitan District -- not related at all to La Paz, New Mexico.)  The attractive and hard-working Ngozi seems to have run away from home, across the national border, and might be in Accra. If, that is, she's alive.

Emma Djan isn't yet authorized to do a lot of investigation on her own, but she has an advantage here, because she can perform a flirtatious role with the greedy (in every sense) hotel owners who seem linked to the disappearance. When one hotel turns out to be supplying female companions, perhaps forced into this upscale prostitution, Emma's both horrified and fascinated. Anything to avoid the boredom of routine PI work!

Her insight into women's lives also gives her an advantage as she investigates with Boateng, the local DI (inspector on the police force):

Boateng grunted. "You seem to be studying this room closely, Djan. What do you see?"

"No disorder, no chaos. It has a controlled feeling. Someone who has been in this room was trying to gain control over the other, but couldn't quite do it. ... This entire house is a clue."

Despite his California location, Quartey's writing continues to have the choppy feel of translated material, possibly an intentional effect to suggest the movement among local languages and dialects. The book suffers somewhat from quick changes in point of view, among investigators and criminals. But it's still a revelatory experience of urban life in Ghana, and neatly plotted, with caste and related attitudes deftly portrayed. 

Collect it for your African mystery shelf, as well as for the diverse spread of Soho Crime's continued global outreach.

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

No comments: