Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey
Published in the UK by Allison and Busby today, the 14th January 2020.

My 2020s read for my 2019-20 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gordon Tilson is a lonely American widower, who has found solace in an online support group. He befriends a young Ghanaian widow, and when her sister is in a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill – to the horror of his son, Derek. And when Gordon runs off to Ghana to surprise his new love but disappears without a trace, Derek hurries overseas himself, fearful for his father’s safety.

Frustrated by the lack of interest from local police, Derek turns to Emma Djan, the newest member of a private detective agency. The case of the missing American man will drag both Emma and Derek into a world of sakawa scams and corruption.

The Missing American is a nice crime story with enough twists and turns to unravel its mystery that it kept me hooked throughout. Quartey makes the most of his Ghanaian setting with moments of Sjowall and Wahloo style social commentary that I particularly appreciated. I felt I got a good sense of Atimpoku and how people live there. This novel is much more of a serious crime story than the better known Alexander McCall Smith cosy series, but I wouldn't say that it has the pace to be a real thriller.

While I liked the narrative itself, I did unfortunately think that the story was let down by unconvincing characters. Even our heroine, Emma Djan, didn't have a memorable enough portrayal for me to fully believe in her and I don't see how she will become the lynchpin of a whole series. (The Missing American is book one of the Emma Djan mysteries.) Dialogue is often clunky and repetitive too. I lost count of how many times characters recapped plot points to each other that we readers were already well aware of! If you're a crime fiction fan, The Missing American is worth picking up for its unusual plotlines, but I don't think I would continue with the series.

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Books by Kwei Quartey / Crime fiction / Books from Ghana


  1. It sounds like the mystery is pretty decent and it is always nice to go to a new setting. I would like to go to Ghana through this book as well! I think I would struggle with the characters too though, so I think I am going to have to pass on this one.

    1. It was a shame because I think the underlying story was interesting, but that the characters needed stronger definition

  2. Putting real world scams into a murder mystery is an interesting idea.

  3. It's amazing the amount of love scams I see in our papers each day, either sending money abroad to people you don't know or the come and marry me so I can get a visa to your country scam! You'd think people would learn!

    1. I'm amazed by how often people get taken in as well. As a species we seem to have such a great ability to delude ourselves!