Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Witch Doctor's Wife by Tamar Myers

Title: The Witch Doctor's Wife
Author: Tamar Myers
ISBN: 978-0-06-172783-2, Avon, 2009
Genre: Cosy Mystery
Rating: B+

First Line: The dominant female danced along the edge of the manioc field, impatiently waiting the arrival of her pack.

The plane young missionary Amanda Brown is traveling on crash lands outside the village of Belle Vue in the Belgian Congo, which is too forceful a way of telling her that she is no longer in South Carolina. Amanda's housekeeper, an evil-tempered man named Protruding Navel, is highly incensed when she hires a village woman named Cripple to take his place. Profits at the mine are not as high as stockholders would like. Love affairs are being conducted. People relive old tragedies with each new dawn. When one of the villagers stumbles upon a huge uncut diamond, events are put into place that could lead to nothing less than murder.

When I began my long and willing descent into mystery reading, Tamar Myers' cosy "Den of Antiquity" series set in South Carolina was one of the first that I devoured. I enjoyed Myers' sense of humor and way with words. The author has a second long-running "Pennsylvania-Dutch" series as well. In deciding to use her own background as child of missionaries in the Congo of the late 1950s, Tamar Myers has broken new ground in what I hope will be a very fertile field.

Myers' knowledge of the land and people of the 1950s Congo permeates every page, even when it's a small detail such as villagers knowing they had to get home before they heard the first sounds of the hyenas. The customs of the native peoples, how the whites lived and behaved, the landscape, the weather, the architecture... all of these things brought such verisimilitude to the book that I would rank The Witch Doctor's Wife right up there with Alexander McCall Smith and Michael Stanley.

I did have one problem with the book however: there were too many characters, and several of them didn't seem to have anything to do. I didn't get any of them confused; I just read and wondered why they were there. Myers is possibly setting up future books in a series, but I did find the character bounty awkward.

Normally I tell people not to believe blurbs that say, "If you like McCall Smith's #1 Ladies Detective Agency" because most of the time that merely means that the book is set somewhere on the African continent. This time, I would say a blurb like that would be true. There's a gentleness, a humor, and a wisdom to The Witch Doctor's Wife that does remind me of Precious Ramotswe. If Myers does continue to write about Amanda Brown, I'll continue to read the books. They're that good.

[Source: LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.]


  1. This sounds like something I'd enjoy. I haven't read McCall Smith, never felt the urge but the historical setting of this really entices me.

  2. I'm a McCall Smith fan, and thoroughly enjoy his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, so it sounds as though I would like this series, too - thanks : ).

  3. I'm not familiar with Tamar Myers and I'm wondering if she's from South Carolina since her characters from here and her Den of Antiquity Series is set here. I need to check this out. Thanks for your review.

  4. I like your description of this novel. The author's name rings a bell but I can't place what books of hers I've read. Now I have to check her out. Not complaining. It's a fun chore.

  5. I'll be adding this one to my wish list..sounds like a great series.

  6. This sounds like a great book, and hopefully in the next one, only characters that make sense show up in it :-)

  7. Made me think of The Poisonwood Bible. I LOVE Barbara Kingsolver.

  8. I don't know this author but I love the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series! I may have to give this one a try, thanks!

  9. Nicola-- I have read a couple of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books, and they're very good... just not really my cup of tea. I prefer this book by Myers and the two books by Michael Stanley for mysteries set in Africa.

    Margot K-- You're welcome! :)

    Kathy-- Without tracking down information, I don't remember if she is from SC, but I do know that she lives in NC and the Den of Antiquity series used to be set in Charlotte.

    Margot JR-- Yes, it certainly can be!

    Kris-- I hope you enjoy it!

    Aarti-- All the characters were presented as though they had something to do with the action and you'd better remember each and every one. It was only when I went back to do a mental recap that I would come to certain characters and think, "Now... why were they there??" :)

    Susan-- You know... I have yet to read any of Kingsolver's books. I should do something about that one of these days!

    Sharon-- You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I'm not a huge fan of McCall Smith, but I like Michael Stanley and I like an African setting. Adding this to the wish list (along with an extra month to year).

  11. Beth--Only one extra month? ;)

  12. I read a book by Tamar Myers a few years ago and really liked it. This one looks good too.


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