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

4.2 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Length: 385 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Complete Series

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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: 2178 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Publication Date: 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
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,148 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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