Thursday, March 5, 2020

Kwei Quartey

The World's Female Sleuths
I became interested in the world's female sleuths after writing the first two novels in my Emma Djan Investigations series. Emma hails from Ghana, where, after being kicked out of the Ghana Police Service (GPS), joins a detective agency. Her first case, in which The Missing American man comes to Ghana looking for his online love, plunges her into a bizarre world of Internet scams and devious fetish priests.  Her second adventure, expected 2021, is Sleep Well, My Lady, based on a real case out of Kenya. Like Mma Ramotswe (see below), Emma Djan is inspired by her late father, who was a homicide detective in the GPS.

The World's Female Sleuths: Ghana
The World's Female Sleuths: Ghana (Shutterstock)

World's Female Sleuths
The Missing American (Image: Kwei Quartey)

Now, off to Japan, where in The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura, Yurika is a freelancer in the Tokyo underworld. She poses as a prostitute, carefully targeting potential johns, selecting powerful and high-profile men. When she is alone with them, she drugs them and takes incriminating photos to sell for blackmail purposes. This dark novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre with sympathetic antiheroine.

The World's Female Sleuths: Japan
The World's Female Sleuths: Japan (Shutterstock)

World's Female Sleuths
The Kingdom (Image: Soho Press)

Next, we zoom over to South Africa, where we find Jassy Mackenzie's private investigator Jade de Jong. Library Journal says, "...For those readers who like Sara Paretsky and Lynda La Plante and fans of international crime fiction,” giving you an idea of how tough a protagonist she is.
Random Violence: In Johannesburg prosperous whites live in gated communities; when they exit their cars to open the gates, carjackings are common. But seldom is the victim killed, much less shot twice, like Annette Botha. Piet Botha, the husband of the wealthy woman, is the primary suspect in his wife’s murder. As Jade probes into this and other recent carjacking cases, a pattern begins to emerge, a pattern that goes back to her father’s murder and that involves a vast and intricate series of crimes for profit.

The World's Female Sleuths: South Africa
The World's Female Sleuths: South Africa (Shutterstock)

World's Female Sleuths
Random Violence (Image: Soho Press)

Directly north of South Africa is Botswana, home to a female sleuth that to many will need no introduction: Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith's creation, the dearly beloved Precious Ramotswe, who is revered for her pragmatic, gentle, but just view of the world.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, the first detective novel in the eponymous series, was  first published in 1998. Mma Precious Ramotswe begins the first detective agency in Botswana in the capital city Gaborone, after her beloved father dies. She hires a secretary and solves cases for her clients. At first, Smith's novels in this series didn't catch on in the US, although it had a following in Smith's native Scotland. It's said that after September 11, 2001, mystery readers were looking for something comforting rather than violent and murderous, and this series really fit the bill. Today, these novels are seen everywhere in the world in multiple languages, a mere dream for most authors.

The World's Famous Sleuths: Botswana
The World's Female Sleuths: Botswana (Shutterstock)

World's Female Sleuths
First edition of No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Fair use:

Stay tuned for more international female sleuths! We're not done!

Kwei Quartey


  1. Kwei, Thank you for this. We still have work to do, but crime fiction has come a long way. Fifteen years ago, when an agent read my first novel, he said he loved everything about it, but it needed a male protagonist. I should, he insisted, make the priest the central character that swoops in and saves the Abbess and the nuns in their convent. REALLY? It was already the 21st Century, but the prevailing prejudice was that the main characters in crimes fiction had to be men.