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LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ by Kwei Quartey: Book Review

The underbelly of life in Ghana and Nigeria is portrayed with both understanding and dread in the latest Emma Djan mystery by Kwei Quartey.

Emma is part of a small team of private detectives in Ghana’s capital Accra, led by Yemo Sowab, the agency’s owner.  Emma joined the firm after an episode of sexual harassment when she was with the capital’s police force.  She likes and respects her current colleagues and her boss but wishes for a major case to investigate.  And then one comes along.

Nnamdi Ojukwu, a college friend of Sowab’s when both attended the University of Ghana, comes to the agency for help in locating his missing daughter.  Ojukwu is a highly successful man in neighboring Nigeria, formerly the country’s high commissioner and currently a consultant for a think tank.  The story he tells Sowab is a disquieting one–his only child, Ngozi, has run away from home.

A few months earlier, Ngozi met and became romantically involved with a Ghanian-Nigerian man, Femi Adebanjo, much to her parents’ dismay.   A smooth-talking high school dropout and a former convict, the Ojukwus believed that Femi was not an appropriate match for their educated daughter, and they made their dislike clear.  When it was time for the family to return to Nigeria from Ghana, Ngozi told them she didn’t want to go, that she no longer wanted to go to the university.  Then, one morning, she was gone.

Ojukwu has come to the Sowab Agency because a friend told him that he had seen Ngozi in a supermarket in Ghana.  Now he’s hoping that the private detectives can locate his missing daughter.

At the same time, Emma’s lover Courage begins an investigation with the city Criminal Investigations Division.  Two weeks earlier a Nigerian man was the victim of a homicide, and when Courage hears that the victim was a man called Femi Adebanjo, he connects the name to a conversation he had had with Emma regarding the missing Ngozi.

Further investigation by Emma and her colleague Jojo makes them suspect that Femi had been involved in the sex trade, managing an upscale hotel that appears to cater to male customers and sex workers.  When Emma and a CID inspector arrive at the White House hotel, they learn some disquieting information.

Femi and Ngozi had been staying at the hotel, where Femi was the manager, and all went well at the beginning,  However, shortly before he was killed, Femi stopped sharing a suite with Ngozi and began a sexual relationship with one of the prostitutes who worked at the hotel.  Thus Emma learns of the vast network of sexual workers in the city, as well as Femi’s involvement in an underground network, illegally sending Nigerians to Europe with false papers and promises of nonexistent jobs.

Kwei Quartey has written a mystery that will take readers to a location that is unfamiliar to most but with characters and motives we all can easily recognize.  Ambition, greed, and corruption are all too familiar, no matter where one lives.

You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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