From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in South Africa in 1952, Australian filmmaker Nunn's stellar debut explores a divided society through the frame of a classic murder mystery. When Det. Sgt. Emmanuel Cooper, Nunns tortured sleuth, investigates white suspects in the fatal shooting of Afrikaner police captain Willem Pretorius, he immediately encounters resistance from the victims family. Before long, brutal investigators from the Security Branch offer a politically expedient solution. Cooper must fend off their threats as he pursues a link between the murder and an open Peeping Tom case that Pretorius had been probing. The detective finds no shortage of people who might have had a motive for killing the captain. Fans of Charles Todds Inspector Rutledge series (A Matter of Justice
, etc.) will note some parallels, in particular CoopersÂ being haunted by the spirit of his old sergeant-major. Smooth prose and a deft plot make this novel a welcome addition to crime fiction set in South Africa. (Jan.)
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Who murdered the white Afrikaner police captain in a small South African border town in 1952? Was it a family row? As English detective Emmanuel Cooper and his Zulu sidekick investigate the personal relationships, including the role of a powerful landowner family and that of a beautiful “Coloured” (mixed race) woman, who may know more than she is saying, Cooper finds himself in conflict with the national security police out to get the “Communist” rebels whose nonviolent Defiance Campaign for civil right threatens the government. What holds the reader in this debut historical mystery (the first of a projected series about Detective Cooper) is the fabric of secrets and lies, supported by the Immorality Act, which makes it a crime to have sex across the color line. 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. Born in southern Africa, the author gets the politics exactly right: the farce, cruelty, sorrow, and rebellion in daily life. --Hazel Rochman