“Accra is a perfect place for murder. It is so dark and so quiet at night. Street people are sleeping everywhere. Who knows they are there, and who cares about them? Who will report anything? Everyone fears you, the police. They say if you go to report something to the police, you are the one who they will arrest. I could kill one of these rubbish children around the corner from where the other ones sleep and I could walk away without worrying. No one will care.”
These words from a serial killer explain how the killer got away with killing homeless children. The killer threw their bodies in the most terrible places: filthy latrines, sewers, and dumps.
Set in Ghana, Kwei Quartey’s Children of the Street is the second of Quartey’s Inspector Darko Dawson police procedurals.
Quartey’s matter-of-fact writing style perfectly describes the city’s squalor.
Darko Dawson is a wonderful character. He grieves as his young son Hosiah wastes away because of a congenital heart defect. He is a policeman married to a school teacher. He and his wife Christine live on the edge of poverty. They can’t afford their son's needed operation. Every day brings anguish as their son’s health declines.
Along the way, Dawson’s personal situation causes him to make mistakes, blunders of the heart. He loses his temper with witnesses and suspects. He cares too much. He accuses the wrong people. He struggles to keep from smoking Marijuana, a practice he is working hard to overcome.
Dawson faces departmental politics. He learns his assistant is a better man than Dawson thought he was. And he finds others in the police department who are willing to help him face his son's illness.
Darko Dawson cares for the children of the street. He sees them for what they are, coming down hard on the seemingly incorrigible ones, but helping the trapped. He helps them one at a time, the only way he has to do it.
This is a quality book. It describes a kind of pain and struggle which the world ignores.
Such homelessness, using children in the sex trade and other ways, is not unique to Ghana. Right now I’m reading a book that describes the sex trade in young women on the streets of New York City.
I could feel Kwei Quartey’s indignation at the abominations he describes. His very style bristles with truth and quiet anger.
Kwei Quartey is a medical doctor. The book reflects that, not in a technical way, but in the way it describes things. The author names Hosiah’s heart defect and explains the needed operation.
If you haven’t yet met Darko Dawson, you might want to.