Book Review: The Missing American

Kwei Quartey’s newest novel, The Missing American, opens with a sniper assassination of a Ghanaian presidential candidate, and then we are introduced to Emma Djan, whose dreams of a promising career in the Ghana Police Service are dashed when she tearfully refuses an offer of a position in Homicide in return for sex.

The Deputy Commissioner of Police who relieves her of her duties, suspects “something happened,” and refers her to the owner of a detective agency where she is immediately hired.

Her first case is that of a missing American named Gordon Tilson, a lonely widower who has fallen in love with a Ghanaian beauty named Helen, whom he meets on the internet. Excitedly, he decides to go to Accra to see what destiny holds for the two of them. To his dismay, he soon finds out there is no Helen, and he has been scammed out of thousands of dollars. Then Gordon goes missing. 

Now Emma needs to solve this case for the client, Derek Tilson, and prove to her new boss that he made a good decision in hiring her as a private detective.  However, there are those who will not only thwart her efforts, but kill to keep their secrets.

The novel takes the reader deep into internet scams, fetish priests and corruption, while also offering a look into Ghana’s food, people and culture. This is not a fast-paced crime novel, but is deliberate, and the pieces all tie together at the end. 

I liked Emma and was glad to see that even with a new job where it was extremely important that she prove herself, she still made regular time to volunteer for a very special cause.

Crime fiction readers will enjoy the novel and be treated to the cultural rhythms of Ghana. I look forward to The Second Emma Djan Investigation.

“An Exultant Aha!”

WINSLOW HOMER, SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW, 1872.

While recently perusing through Flipboard, a picture of a young lady in The Paris Review caught my eye.  She was laying in a hammock and reading a book.  “How very relaxing!” I thought, as I envisioned myself also lying in a hammock on a warm summer day and enjoying a great read.  I sighed; feeling thankful that since I was no longer working full-time, I could actually enjoy this bit of peaceful solitude any day of the week. What a joy!  Then I read the title of the article.

I Have Wasted My Life

How could anyone envision relaxing in solitude as a waste of life!   Was the writer at a life-low when even something as peaceful as this would bring on words of despair or defeat?  Or was this a play on words?  I sure couldn’t figure it out, but decided to read on…

Over my head I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine, behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up like golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Now I am really puzzled. How could a beautiful butterfly, and a field of sunlight bring about such despair? I will admit that horse dropping did elicit an “ewww,” but let’s continue.

The author goes on…

“I imagined the defeat was that he was just describing a butterfly, a wizened horse turd, a this, a that. I thought he was ashamed of his aimlessness and that he was valiantly articulating his failure.”

I starting thinking what this might look like for a 50+ woman.  When would solitude look like loneliness?  Would an unmarried woman feel this way?  How about one who has remained in a bad marriage? Or a woman who is beleaguered by the constant demands of the job and family, and can’t find a place or time for quiet solitude or reflection?  Would any of them think they have wasted their life?   I sure hope not, but instead hope it is seen as a way to recharge our batteries, a time for reflection… creativity!

While I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself, I will give you a hint:

You just may find you experience “an exhultant aha!”

And if you liked what you read, why not pick up Patricia Hampl’s new book:

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Now, I am off to find a place of relaxation and solitude and a good book!
Et toi?

I’d love to hear what you thought about the article!  Just scroll down to leave a reply.

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Au revoir,

Lisa