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by Kwei Quartey
Soho, January 2021
315 pages
ISBN: 1641292075

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A winning new detective, Emma Djan, appeared on the scene in THE MISSING AMERICAN. In the second in the series, the Ghanaian woman who left the police to join a private investigation firm returns in a high profile murder investigation. A successful and wealthy clothing designer, Lady Araba, fails to appear as her staff prepare for a major fashion show. She has been murdered at her home in an exclusive gated community where the wealthiest citizens of Accra live. The police made an arrest, but the victim's aunt is sure they have the wrong man. Her niece had a stormy on-again off-again relationship with Augustus Seeza, host of a popular television talk show. In spite of being charming and talented, his alcoholism and lavish lifestyle have tarnished his reputation. Convinced the corrupt and ineffective police have grabbed the wrong man simply to close the case, Lady Araba's aunt asks Emma's firm to investigate.

Some of Kwei Quartey's previous mysteries have introduced American readers to unfamiliar aspects of Ghanaian culture. Here, the surprise for those who may know little about modern Africa is the discovery that many Ghanaians would be perfectly comfortable living on the upper West Side of Manhattan, though they may find it a bit dirty and unsafe compared to home. The plot, which offers a number of suspects and some suspenseful undercover work by a team of private investigators, would be at home in a Golden Age mystery set among manor houses and has a similarly deliberate pacing as the various suspects are checked out. Yet there are plenty of distinctly Ghanaian touches to keep it fresh, and a glossary in the back for those who may not know banku from a banger or a chaley from a bloke.

The story is told in a back-and-forth chronology, with some chapters occurring years before the murder, some just days before, and some a year later. Though readers have to sort it out for themselves, the author has made it easy to follow the changing time-frames. A bit more disappointing is that Emma Djan doesn't appear for the first fifty pages, and then has to share the story of the investigation with the other staff of the agency.

That said, the ensemble cast is strong and this is an entertaining entry in a series that is well worth following though with more Emma next time, please.

Barbara Fister is an academic librarian, columnist, and author of the Anni Koskinen mystery series.

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, November 2020

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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