Cover image of "Murder at Cape Three Points," a complex murder mystery

Observers of Third World politics and economic development write about the resource curse. They note that certain countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are rich in oil or minerals fail to invest the resulting wealth in bettering the lives of their people. Instead, the money flows into the hands of a tiny elite, corrupt government officials among them. There are, of course, abundant examples. And, as you’ll find in Kwei Quartey’s complex murder mystery, Murder at Cape Three Points, Ghana is one of them.

Offshore oil and official corruption

Quartey’s tale is based on the discovery of offshore oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea and their exploitation on a large scale beginning in the 1990s. Darko Dawson, the homicide detective at the center of the novel, investigates a gruesome double murder discovered near the Cape Three Points deepwater oil and gas well. The story brings to light the cozy relationship between the country’s Minister of Energy and the European oil company that holds the lease. The implicit question behind the tale is what happens to the gushers of money that come out of that well? It’s clear that little or none of it aids the fishermen displaced by the drilling or the people of Ghana’s urban slums.

Murder at Cape Three Points (Darko Dawson #3) by Kwei Quartey (2014) 337 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of an offshore oil rig that figures in this complex murder mystery
The offshore oil derrick at Cape Three Points, Ghana, where this novel opens. Image: Offshore Technology

Is witchcraft behind this double murder?

Inspector Darko Dawson has confronted examples before that hinted at witchcraft. Fetish priests maintain a strong hold on many of Ghana’s people. But never has the evidence been so gruesome. One morning, a fisherman’s canoe had shown up adrift near the oil rig sixty kilometers off Ghana’s southernmost point. Two bodies lay within it, a man and a woman. And his head, minus one eye, was stuck on a stick propped up in the prow of the canoe.

Witchcraft seems the most likely explanation. Ancient superstitions retain a firm hold on many of Ghana’s people. But as Dawson and his sidekick, Detective Sergeant Philip Chikata, dive into the case, they learn there’s more involved. It’s clear that the tangled ancestry of the victims’ families is also likely to be a factor. The case offers as many suspects as the most unlikely English cozy mystery. Murder at Cape Three Points is truly a complex and satisfying murder mystery.

A complex murder mystery, systematically solved

Quartey deftly guides us through the detectives’ systematic probe of the case. In the process, they uncover a host of suggestive facts. The rifts within a sprawling elite Ghanaian family. The hidden practice of witchcraft. And the conduct of Malgam Oil, the wealthy Swiss-British company that holds the lease on the offshore rig. We view Ghanaian society from top to bottom, from its wealthiest and most powerful to the poor and neglected people struggling to survive on its margins. The case is inherently intriguing. The setting, and the author’s intimate familiarity with it, double the pleasure of reading this novel.

About the author

Photo of Kwei Quartey, author of this complex murder mystery
Kwei Quarter. Image: Institute of Policy Studies

Kwei Quartey‘s author website notes that “Based in Pasadena, California, Kwei Jones Quartey, M.D. is a writer of African crime fiction. He practiced medicine for more than 20 years while simultaneously working as a writer, balancing the two careers by writing early mornings before clinic. However, in 2018, he made the decision to retire from medicine to write full time.” Wikipedia adds that “Quartey was born in Accra, Ghana, to a Ghanaian father and an African-American mother, both of whom were lecturers at the University of Ghana.” He is the author of eight detective novels.

For more reading

I’ve reviewed four other Ghana-based detective novels by Kwei Quartey:

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