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What initially drew me toward this book is that it is read by Simon Prebble, one of my favorite narrators. My expectations for the book were really only that it would provide a reasonable diversion. Having read the McCall Smith Ladies No. 1 novels, I suppose I anticipated something similar. I was very happily mistaken. While I enjoy the AMS novels, they are light, frilly reads; Wife of the Gods is a substantial novel.
While the setting in Ghana is fascinating enough to provide an engrossing reading experience on its own, the mystery is deftly enough plotted to satisfy any mystery lover. After I was hooked on the novel, I looked up the author to discover that he is himself from Ghana, although now living in the US. His intimate knowledge of his setting shows in how quickly the reader is drawn into this--for most American readers--quite foreign world.
The main character, detective Dawson, is a fully-realized and realistic character. He is presented as a flawed individual coping at times not very well with difficult situations. As the mystery unfolds and clues are doled out, one can speculate on the outcome of this classical whodunit along with Detective Dawson. There's enough meat in this novel to discuss it endlessly, but suffice it to say whether you want a good mystery, a book about an exotic locale, or a book with significant social commentary, this is a good choice.
Finally, while I did enjoy hearing Simon Prebble read this book, I'm not sure he was the best choice as a narrator. His lovely British accent is always a pleasure to hear, but I can't help but wonder why someone who could have given the novel the added flavor of a lyrical African sound wasn't selected to read this novel which is about Ghana as much as it is about the mystery. Again, this isn't really a complaint--no star subtraction; Prebble brings life to each character skillfully as always.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
This is well written detective story that takes place in Ghana.
I love that this story is set in Ghana just like a Michael Connelly book is set in California or a Steig Larsson book is set in Sweden. It's the setting where the author is comfortable and the best place to tell a particular story. Which might make more sense if I can explain what the book is not.
It's not a story about westerners in Africa. It's not a story about the struggle and strife of life in Africa as written by a non-African. It's not a cartoon-ish depiction of native Africans (like Alexander McCall Smith's books can sometimes be). It simply takes place there. Which means that their are interesting cultural details that are included because of the place setting, but those details are not included to make a political point or to be set up against a comparable western standard.
To put this in context - I love reading about Africa. I've read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction set within and about South Africa. And as wonderful as many of those stories are, they are almost always written by a non-native African or tell the story through western eyes.
I love that Kwerty's book just tells a story about the people who live their everyday lives in Ghana. The detective story is well done (Admittedly, I did kind of know who the murderer was given some of the early fore-shadowing and was disappointed by this at first. But the way the story unfolded was still satisfying and I had some moments of doubt as different suspects were investigated.) The main character is wonderfully flawed. I hope the author keeps this guy around. I'm guessing that he has future plans for Detective Dawson.
It looks like they are promoting Kwerty as another McCall Smith and while I understand that they are trying to capitalize on the success of the Mma Ramotswe stories, I think this book stands on it's own.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful