The plot in Tail of the Blue Bird is set in Ghana, oscillating between Accra the capital city and the village of Sonokrom, where most of action takes place.
A local politician orders an investigation after his girlfriend discovers a mutilated body in a hut when she goes to visit her village of Sonokrom. Initially, the villagers refuse to cooperate with the investigators, preferring to resolve the matter in their traditional old way. Kayo Odamtten, a young forensic pathologist trained in England, is pulled from his job at a government laboratory in Accra, and assigned to be the detective on the case. The police chief, Inspector Donkor has an eye on making international headlines and demands a “CSI-type” investigation.
Despite his somewhat over-the-top zeal and demeanour, his obsession with modern science and his comical attempt to apply CSI approaches to the case, he wins over the villagers with his down-to-earth approach and willingness to compromise. In the process, he discovers a world of local traditions, evil spirits, and beliefs that defies modern standards of rationality.
For one, he discovers mysteries that he cannot explain with his science. The power of strange curses that bind the villagers and stories about strange boys who wander in the forest are two examples. Through the book, Ayikwei invites readers to explore the conflict between traditional and modern values. For him, the important lesson is that the old does not necessarily trump the new and vice-versa, but rather that the two worlds, somehow, get to co-exist.
The book is sprinkled with lots of Ghanaian expressions, and some readers may find this a little frustrating. On the whole, however, this does not take away from the power of the story, as readers will often be able to decipher the gist of what is being referred to from the context.