Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Murder at Cape Three Points

I wanted to like Kwei Quartey's Murder at Cape Three Points (2014, Soho Crime AGAIN) more than I did.  That is not to broadly condemn - I enjoyed it, just didn't sink into it like I wanted.

Part of my desire to like this was the very stylish cover:

(you can't look inside, I lifted this from Amazon.  Do you like having the cover image?  It's very Euro Crime.)

And, it is set in Ghana,  a really interesting country with a fascinating past, vibrant future, gorgeous natural resources, AND a Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Program.  Most other African-based mystery series are set in South Africa, although of course there is Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular Precious Ramotswe series from Botswana, which yes, I know, I know, I really must read.  I don't know from Ghana, but Quartey's story certainly transports you to the varied layers of Ghanian life.

Have I mentioned the sharply named Hero, Detective Darko Dawson, family man, Malta enthusiast, and occasional toker (well, trying not to in this book)?  And the super-smooth but vaguely suspicious foreign oil interests?  And there are the really stunning-sounding beaches at Cape Three Points itself.

So it has to be fascinating, right?  This is Quartey's third entry in a series featuring Dawson, taking place in and around Ghana.  (Yes, breaking yet again with the read-series-in-order dictum.  Damn you Soho Crime Club!)  Dawson is brought in to jump-start the investigation into the murder of a local oil executive and his wife. The local police having gotten nowhere, Dawson retraces their steps, angering them and the same witnesses in the process.  Yet it wasn't really until the last few chapters that anything interesting happened.  Dawson and his deputy, Chikata, have a lot of conversations that tell them a great deal about the murdered man, his business, and his messy extended family.  Dawson  methodically rules out most of the suspects, or doesn't have anything to really move on until he picks up a thread that we all saw dangling dozens of chapters earlier.  The pokey pace just didn't draw me in.  Nor did the language.  It is pretty rare that I don't offer up at least one quote, isn't it?  The prose here isn't bad, just doesn't imprint on your consciousness.

Now, my sense is that Quartey's earlier stories in this series deal with different aspects of Ghanian life, including street crime in Accra and traditional village society.  Maybe these work better?  I suppose I'd check out another Darko Dawson story, but it's not at the top of the list.

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