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THE MISSING AMERICAN
by Kwei Quartey
Soho, January 2020
419 pages
$27.99
ISBN: 1641290706


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If your urge to travel has been dampened by carbon-footprint guilt, the length of airport security lines, or straightened circumstances, you are at least able to travel to nearly any corner of the world via crime fiction. Consider taking a trip to Ghana, where Kwei Quartey has been introducing readers to the modern West African nation through an excellent police procedural series featuring detective Darko Dawson. In the first entry in a new series, Emma Djan takes over and provides the tour to a teaming, troubled, and fascinating country where cybercrime and traditional beliefs combine in a combustible mix.

Emma wants to follow in her father's footsteps to be a detective in the Accra police force, but when she resists a superior's sexual demands she finds herself in desperate need of a new career path. Fortunately, a more ethical private investigator takes her on, and soon she has a puzzling case on her hands. An American who had developed a close relationship with a Ghanaian woman over the internet decided to travel to Africa to surprise her. Then he vanished, and his son fears he was the victim of a crime. Emma is familiar with sakawa scams a sophisticated descendent of the infamous Nigerian Prince email schemes. Using Skype, AI-enhanced video images, and cunning, gullible foreigners are seduced and gradually conned into sending money to their virtual paramours. Emma knows these scammers are organized by powerful fetish priests who promise wealth in exchange for obedience and a portion of the proceeds. What she doesn't know is that her hapless half-brother Bruno has been introduced by a friend to the profitable business.

Readers follow two paths and timeframes. One is the American's online infatuation leading him to Accra and, eventually, to disillusionment and danger. His story is capably woven into the investigation Emma conducts on behalf of the missing man's son. Along the way we armchair travelers get a fascinating tour of a country that as familiar as a Skype session yet intriguingly foreign. One may hope Darko Dawson will return, but meanwhile Emma Djan is an appealing, intrepid, and intelligent guide to the seamier side of a complicated country.

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

Reviewed by Barbara Fister, January 2020

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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