Ghanaian Novelist Kwei Quartey on the Effect of the Supernatural in African Crime Fiction

The Ghanaian novelist Kwei Quartey argues for the vitality of the spiritual in crime fiction from the continent, on the basis that “the importance of curses, the ancestors, and the gods in African daily life cannot be overstated.” He uses instances—the trokosi tradition in Ghana’s Volta region, a 1945 ritual killing in Elmina, and the sakawa, for Yahoo Boys—to establish a background for the supernatural phenomena in his own novels.

Quartey, a physician, is the author of the novels Wife of the Gods, Children of the Street, Murder at Cape Three Points, Gold of Our Fathers, and Death by His Grace, which constitute the Darko Dawson series, and of The Missing American, which begins the Emma Djan series.

That they do not “fit with the otherwise precise and logical evolution of a murder mystery” is why “the introduction of magic, juju, and the supernatural has a special place in crime fiction.”

“Crime fiction out of Africa, a relatively new phenomenon, may contribute a new aspect to the genre, i.e. the part spiritual or mystical beliefs can play in crime, more specifically murder,” he writes. “Perhaps it’s time to add a new sub-genre category: African.”

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