In a morally complex tale rich with authenticity, Nunn takes readers to Jacob's Rest, a tiny town on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 1952, and new apartheid laws have recently gone into effect, dividing a nation into black and white while supposedly healing the political rifts between the Afrikaners and the English. Tensions simmer as the fault line between the oppressed and the oppressors cuts deeper, but it's not until an Afrikaner police officer is found dead that emotions more dangerous than anyone thought possible boil to the surface.
When Detective Emmanuel Cooper, an Englishman, begins investigating the murder, his mission is preempted by the powerful police Security Branch, who are dedicated to their campaign to flush out black communist radicals. But Detective Cooper isn't interested in political expediency and has never been one for making friends. He may be modest, but he radiates intelligence and certainly won't be getting on his knees before those in power. Instead, he strikes out on his own, following a trail of clues that lead him to uncover a shocking forbidden love and the imperfect life of Captain Pretorius, a man whose relationships with the black and coloured residents of the town he ruled were more complicated and more human than anyone could have imagined.
The first in her Detective Emmanuel Cooper series, A Beautiful Place to Die marks the debut of a talented writer who reads like a brilliant combination of Raymond Chandler and Graham Greene. It is a tale of murder, passion, corruption, and the corrosive double standard that defined an apartheid nation.
The novel's intricately woven plot leaves no leaf unturned, so that the conclusion is believable and narratively satisfying .... By the book's end, readers will find themselves as deeply entwined in the characters' fates as Nunn is herself, and left to ruminate over a number of weighty debates as the tale weaves in double standards, double lives, emotional betrayal, murder, corruption and sexual deviance. (Reviewed by Allison Stadd).
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Nashawaty
this first installment in a proposed series has all the right smells and dialects. But as a character, Cooper's no Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. He feels sketchy, half-drawn — not quite alive yet. Next time out, we'll need less poetry about the beauty of the veldt, and more clues about what makes this new sleuth tick. B.
It is sometimes hard to keep straight who’s who in the community, but the story is consistently engaging, with revelations right up until the very end.
Starred Review. Smooth prose and a deft plot make this novel a welcome addition to crime fiction set in South Africa.
Apartheid Apartheid (meaning separateness in Afrikaans*) was a system of legal
racial segregation enforced by the National Party government of South Africa
between 1948 and 1990.
The new system was a way for the white Afrikaner National Party to ensure
their control over both South Africa's economy and social structure. The key was
white dominance of blacks and colored
(mixed descent) people. Apartheid was born as a political tactic but grew
to involve violence and extreme strife.
The apartheid laws were officially enacted in 1948, four years before the events
told in A Beautiful Place to Die. Racial discrimination became not simply
a mechanism engrained in local customs, but part and parcel of the government.
That is, apartheid race laws tainted every aspect of people's lives, holding
sway over who one could marry, work for, live with, or even be friends with. The
division by the government's Department of Home Affairs into white, black and
colored (or mixed blood) was based largely on physical...
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