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A Beautiful Place to Die: An Emmanuel Cooper Mystery (Detective Emmanuel Cooper Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Malla Nunn
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.73
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Award-winning screenwriter Malla Nunn delivers a stunning and darkly romantic crime novel set in 1950s apartheid South Africa, featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper -- a man caught up in a time and place where racial tensions and the raw hunger for power make life very dangerous indeed.

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. I

Editorial Reviews

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 Coopers 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 2220 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416586202
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001P3TWVO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,929 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Everything is beautiful, in its own way." Old song April 13, 2010
It is 1952 and the new apartheid laws have gone into effect in South Africa, separating white from black and mixed race people. Detective Emmanuel Cooper, an Englishman who served in WWII, and still has nighmares about the horrors he's seen, is summoned to the scene of the murder.

He views the body of a white police captain. The murdered man was Captain Pretorius and three of his sons are standing by. They are furious that the detective division only sent one man, to investigate the death of a murdered police captain. Cooper tries to calm them down, saying that the information was unclear and they hadn't been informed of the victim's race, sex or occupation.

Cooper also meets Constable Samuel Shabalala. Shabalala is a tall, powerful man and Cooper can see that he's the one who would probably know the most but since he is black, he had to wait until he was called forward to the murder scene.

When Cooper finishes viewing the body and the scene of the murder, he goes to the police station in this small town of Jacob's Rest. The town is located on the Mozambique and South Africa border. Cooper calls his boss and asks for reinforcements but is informed that there aren't any. In fact, the powerful Security Branch will be taking the case over. They are goal minded to flush out any black communist radicals and look for political solutions. Cooper is instructed to be his superior's eyes in the field and continue his own investigation. Find the murderer, regardless of political expediency.

What Cooper finds is that Captain Pretorius had his own secrets and wasn't the ideal man that everyone thought. He had strained relationships with black and colored residents and ruled the town with his sons, without asking for permission for what he wanted.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Film Maker's Eye on the Printed Page January 18, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A film maker takes a visual approach to a story. A novelist takes a verbal one. Sometimes novelists decide that they could be movie makers, and try with a variety of success. More rarely a film maker will try a hand at the novel, and Malla Nunn is a film maker -- an award winning one.

What has happened with A Beutiful Place to Die is that the visual thought process has been brilliantly well transmitted to the written page. Here we find a painting of the South Africa of 1951 where Apartheid was at its most terrible. This was more than 25 years before P.K. Botha became State President, and gently introduced some slightly less repressive interpretations to that law. It was over 40 years before Nelson Mandela became the first fully representative President of the country, and directed the dismantling of Apartheid.

Malla Nunn was born in Swaziland during the time of Apartheid's greatest power, and her exposure to the artificial segregation of the races is clearly felt throughout this novel. She left the South African region in the 1970s, and now resides in Australia, but despite that the reader may feel the powerful loathing that she feels towards the injustices of the time.

She has cleverly wrapped these feelings into a story of murder and mystery that embraces the whole spectrum of the races of the time, in a small town called Jacob's Rest. The protagonist is a Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper of the Cape Police Force. The antagonists include a "racially pure" Afrikaner family, and the S.S.-like Special Police force who consider themselves free to function above the law.

Her film-maker's eye comes through in the beautifully dressed "sets" in which the various scenes take place.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadows & secrets January 23, 2010
The year is 1952, the setting far out on the veldt in South Africa. The new segregation laws are just taking effect, and there are a thousand ways people of every race can get into terrible trouble with the authorities.

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper arrives from Johannesburg in the town of Jacob's Rest to investigate the alleged murder of a white police captain. He has no backup because his boss thinks the garbled call for help might be a hoax.

The body in the river leaves no doubt that the case is real. As Cooper begins to suspect that the excellent captain had a shadow life - an unsavory secret that invited murder - members of the dread Security Branch appear on the scene. They want the killer to be a Red agitator, a native who can be strung up as an example to other rebels.

Cooper is surrounded on all sides by brutal racists who don't like the direction he's taking. His only allies are a Zulu constable who won't talk, an old Jewish doctor who doctors only in secret - and a white constable, a mere boy, dumber than a box of rocks.

Cooper speaks Zulu, is good at solving cases and can outrun any cop or criminal in Jo'burg. But in a country in the grip of political madness, he's just barely holding onto his own sanity. The war and his own past troubles have left deep scars.

I'm glad that Malla Nunn, an award-winning filmmaker born in Swaziland, decided to try her hand at a novel. She paints an amazing picture of South Africa in the darkest days of its history. And her detective displays an appealing mix of humanity and low-key heroism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Infatuated with Emmanuel Cooper! :-)
This book was bought as gift after I read it and all the other Emmanuel Cooper series. I like this one, the first in the series, more than all the others. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hi`ilawe
4.0 out of 5 stars A good start to a detective series
The first of the Emmanuel Cooper series, I was eager to see if I was onto another good crime series. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alumine Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars A good mystery set in South Africa in the 1950s
A good mystery set in South Africa in the 1950s . I havent read much set in the 1950s, and nothing set in South Africa, glad i chose this book. Will read another by this author
Published 4 months ago by MavisE
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first novel in what I hope will be a long series
A well-written mystery novel. But more than that, Nunn gives the reader a clear and often hard-to-accept picture of life in South Africa as the ever-changing rules for apartheid... Read more
Published 4 months ago by mjs
4.0 out of 5 stars Pitch-perfect setting
As someone who born, grew up and still lives in South Africa, I was greatly impressed by the absolutely correct details of the story, be they referring to the village in which this... Read more
Published 6 months ago by David Pagan
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but missing something.....
I found Malla Nunn to be a competent mystery writer with an excellent grasp of what is needed to grip readers and keep our eyes glued to the last page. Read more
Published 6 months ago by V. C. Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Did I Say This Already?
My best read of the year! Suspense, mystery, injustice,frustration, what could be better, a complicated read. I loved it and will look for more from Malla Nunn.
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book to read
Refreshing change to have an African setting for a murder mystery & liked Emmanuel Cooper as the good guy. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series
Published 6 months ago by Irish Mam
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book
This is a very good story, set in the very weird and brutal apartheid South Africa. The perversity of the society is clearly illustrated while telling a good crime story. Read more
Published 7 months ago by blu
2.0 out of 5 stars mundane
Interesting story, but caricature stereotyped characters. If you're looking for something to read instead of watching TV, this might amuse you. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Guy Randell
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