Thursday, March 27, 2014

Murder is Everywhere - Including at Cape Three Points

It's a pleasure to welcome back Kwei Quartey who has done a couple of guest posts for us in the past about the adventures he's had in Ghana while researching his mysteries.  His first book - Wife of the Gods - introduced his memorable detective, Darko Dawson, and went on to be an LA Times best seller.  Children of the Street followed, and then there was a bit of a gap.  But last week saw the release of the new mystery - Murder at Cape Three Points - set in the unspoiled south of the country, but in view of the oil rigs.  It was worth waiting for!  Kwei had some choices for his murder scene - as we discover today - but he came up with a ripper!

Kwei is a medical doctor and lives in Los Angeles.  Somehow he manages to divide his life between his medical work, his writing, and his family.  I doubt he sleeps much!

Michael - Thursday

Cape Three Points (CTP) is the southernmost tip of Ghana on the west coast of Africa and has been called the “land nearest nowhere,” because it is the landmass closest to zero longitude (the Greenwich Meridian), zero latitude (the Equator) and zero sea level.

Substantial oil reserves have been found in the Gulf of Guinea south of Cape Three Points

An area of wild beauty and rich, verdant forest, CTP is home to a multitude of bird species and land animals, and dolphins and humpbacked whales move through the waters of the Gulf of Guinea off Ghana’s coast.

A lovely and wild scene. The forested peninsula in the background is one of the trio of fingerlike projections that give the region its name.
Photo: Kwei Quartey

I must confess that I didn’t know that humpbacks moved through this region until the tragic occurrence of a number of whales washing up on Ghana’s western beaches during 2013. Because offshore oil production started in Ghana in 2007, the petroleum industry has been accused of causing these deaths through alleged pollution of the ocean, something oil company officials have firmly denied. Whatever the case, Ghana’s new oil industry has added a new dimension to political and social life in the country.

The battle between environmentalists and big oil is the type of conflict that drew me to oil as a background to my novel Murder at Cape Three Points. There are other salient clashes: traditional fishermen and oilrig personnel are always at loggerheads with each other. The fishermen claim the rig “steals” fish from them because the fish are drawn to the rig, and the oil installation managers say fishermen’s nets get tangled with valuable underwater equipment. Then there are the real estate developers who want the land the indigenous people are sitting on. All these tiffs could potentially engender motives for murder.

Once I’d decided on the backdrop, I had to make a decision exactly where, of a number of places, I should place the murder. I like interesting murder sites for my novels. I considered the beautiful cliffs at CTP, over which someone could be tossed.

It would be easy to plunge to one’s death here
Photo: Kwei Quartey
In fact I saw a young, solitary man fishing from rocks that looked very precarious to me.

Just one little push…
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Another crime location I considered was the lighthouse at CTP:

I went up inside this working lighthouse and considered putting a dead body in the lamp housing—in my novel, I mean
Photo: Kwei Quartey
But it was this scene at Cape Three Points village that got me thinking about a canoe as part of a crime scene:
Something soothing about this scene
Photo: Kwei Quartey
I also wanted to tie the murder in some way to a deep-sea oil rig location like this one at Tullow Oil’s Jubilee Field, which is almost thirty-eight miles from shore.

Eirik Raude (“Eric the Red” in Norwegian) deep-sea oil rig at Ghana’s Jubilee Field
Photo: Tullow Oil
I wondered if it was possible to have a canoe containing dead bodies floating around a rig, but how would the canoe get there? Pulled by a motorboat? Dropped from a cargo ship? There’s no way you could paddle a canoe out thirty-eight miles from shore, is there? I was both surprised and glad to learn from Cape Three Points fishermen that it was not only possible for fishermen to paddle out that far, it was common. So that setup would be quite credible. Now all I had to do is build up the background to a scene like that.

Another location featured in MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS is Ezile Bay a small, lovely self-sustaining resort with a million-dollar view of the beach.

Afternoon at Ezile Bay
Photo: Kwei Quartey

Co-owner with her husband Olivier, Danielle Funfschilling was happy to give me permission to use the real name of her resort in the novel, so in many ways, Ezile is a major star in the story, and would be ideal for a cinematic feature as well.

At one side of the bay is a village called Akwidaa, also featured in MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS
Photo: Kwei Quartey

Sitting on the beach, you can watch fishermen return to the village of Akwidaa. Fishing excursions can start in the afternoon and end the following morning. During this time, fishermen may venture many miles from shore. By tradition, women do not fish—only trade in fish.

Crews of fishermen returning to shore
Photo: Kwei Quartey

The surfing is respectable. I did a little boogey boarding, but there was only one board, so after a while I handed it over to some guys who were waiting for it.

Boogey boarders
Photo: Kwei Quartey

In MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS, Darko stays in Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city that I’m very fond of. (Accra, the capital, is a little too much stimulation of the senses for my taste.) Darko arrives to find a Takoradi in transformation and already suffering from increasingly dense traffic as a result of influx of people drawn to the oil boom.

Traffic along Liberation Road
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Nevertheless, not that far out from Takoradi proper, there is still a lot of undeveloped land as well as irresistible vistas such as this one near Africa Beach Hotel.

Rocky beach outside Africa Beach Hotel
Photo: Kwei Quartey

One of the areas mentioned in the novel is New Amanful, a suburb of Takoradi.

In suburbs of Takoradi like New Amanful, residential construction is proceeding at a staggering rate.

Some homes are large and may be intended as rental units
Photo: Kwei Quartey
A house may be in the process of being built in the midst of uncleared land and/or unpaved roads. One such kind of a house features in Murder at Cape Three Points when Darko comes across an important clue.

Construction sometimes stalls if the builder runs out of money, and the structure may lie fallow for a while
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Rather unique and of great curiosity to Darko, who comes from the concrete jungle of Accra, Takoradi has a lush simian sanctuary called Monkey Hill right in the midst of the city.

Monkey Hill: Monkeys can be seen playing in the forest canopy
Photo: Kwei Quartey
Eventually, Darko must take a trip to the deep-sea oil rig like the Eirik Raude. He flies from Takoradi Airport in an NHV helicopter as shown here:

Tullow Oil NHV Helicopters parked at Takoradi Airport
Photo: Tullow Oil
In February 2014, I followed Darko’s example and flew by helicopter to the West Leo offshore rig, a new and exciting experience for me as well. The helicopter landed at this helipad with the delicacy of a butterfly.

Photo by Tullow Oil
A staff member and drilling engineer supervisor gave me a wonderful tour of the rig. The flight there and back and the tour are duplicated quite faithfully in Murder at Cape Three Points, as well as the somewhat harrowing underwater training that Darko (and I) had to go through to be allowed on the helicopter.

That’s me on the helipad, which is a lot bigger than it appears as you approach from the air
Photo: Nick Howell
In the end, research for MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS was the richest and most eventful of all the Darko Dawson novels in the series. My next novel, Gold of the Fathers, promises to take me on similar adventures.

Find more about Kwei Quartey and his Ghanaian mystery series at

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  1. What beautiful photographs! Thanks.

    I just took this book out of the library, and look forward to reading it, not only for enjoyment of a good mystery, but to learn more about Ghana.

    Reading crime fiction is a superb way to learn more about the world, as this crew certainly knows.

  2. Hi Kwei. Welcome back to MIE. I'd hoped to run into you again at Book 'em in So. Pasadena but, alas, I've heard that venerable store has closed.:( We'll just have to catch up elsewhere...perhaps at Bouchercon in Long Beach in November?

    1. Yes, I'll be at Bouchercon. Look forward to it.

  3. What a fabulous research trip, and how enticing to readers, Kwei. Can't wait to read it. Come back soon!

  4. Cool that you got to visit the West Leo. Did any of the W.Leo people say anything about going to the Republic of Guinea in the coming months?

    1. No, they didn't. I had no idea they were, but I know there's feverish oil exploration and discovery all along the African coast as well as inland.