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Gentle Readers, as you know, my preference for mystery novels is books that feature diverse protagonists. It’s even better when the author is a person of color writing about the familiar. Well, I’ve stumbled across another fine series. The author is Kwei Quartey, who was raised in Ghana by a Ghanaian father and African-American mother.

It occurred to me one day that other than the delightful and lighthearted No. 1  Ladies Detective Agency, series by Alexander McCall Smith, I hadn’t yet located a series set on the continent of Africa. McCall’s series which is set in Gaborone, Botswana, features  Mma Precious Ramotswe as the protagonist, a full-figured, practical woman who’s had her share of heartache. The novels are a fun read, and my Mom and I traded them back and forth and shared a love of  Mma Ramotswe’s adventures. The series has been adapted into a television series by HBO, starring Jill Scott.

Desirous of more variety, I did a bit of searching for and happily, I turned up several new (to me) mystery series set in Africa. Which brings me back to the Quartey novels. So far, I’ve only read the second book in the series, Children of the Street, but I could not put it down. The novels are set in Ghana, and this one takes place on the streets of Accra, the capital. In some sense, the mystery was a minor player to the sounds, sights and smells Quartey evokes in his novel. As his protagonist Darko Dawson walks the streets, I found myself captivated be the evocative manner in which Quartey describes the realities of  life in Accra. I also found Darko’s relationships with his coworkers and the cadence of their conversations interesting and an important part of the texture of the novel. Dawson, is not without his own personal struggles, and I especially enjoyed his efforts to compartmentalize the horrors of his job as he returned home to his wife and son.

This novel is also an homage to the lives of the many children who flee to the city looking for better a better life, only to get caught up in the harsh realities of living on the street. The book gives the reader a sense too, of the complicated relationships between the non-profits working with street children and their donors, and the relationship of the police to them both (a difficulty relationship here as well). I look forward to reading the other novels in this series, and to finding additional series to read and to share with you.

Update: NPR Recently profiled Kwei Quartey. You can read the interview here.

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