Move over Alexander McCall Smith. Ghana has joined Botswana on the map of mystery.
All too shortly after her brother Charles reports her missing to Ketanu’s Inspector Max Fiti, the body of Gladys Mensah, medical student and AIDS-outreach volunteer, is found in the forest by Efia, the fourth wife of Togbe Adzima, chief and High Priest of Bedome. Testimony indicates that Gladys was returning from Bedome to Ketanu but never completed her journey, perhaps because she was detained by Samuel Boateng, the 19-year-old who had a crush on her. Inspector Fiti, uneasily aware that he’s out past his depth, asks for help from the police force in nearby Ho, but instead Timothy Sowah, the director of the AIDS program, convinces higher-ups to send Detective Inspector Darko Dawson from the capital city of Accra to Ketanu, the town from which his mother disappeared after a visit to her infant nephew 23 years ago. Despite Dawson’s interest in Ketanu, the small-town cop and the big-city cop don’t exactly bond, and soon Dawson crosses swords with Fiti over the local officer’s methodical beatings of Samuel Boateng, whom he’s convinced murdered Gladys. Ironically, Dawson’s hands are no cleaner than Fiti’s. His explosive temper has already led him to attack both Togbe Adzima and a witch doctor whose unauthorized treatment nearly killed Dawson’s son.
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.