A Beautiful Place to Die: An Emmanuel Cooper Mystery (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

A Beautiful Place
to Die

by Malla Nunn is set in South Africa in the early days of apartheid, it was not
a place where justice dwelled.  Detective Emmanuel Cooper is called to the
tiny town of Jacob’s Rest to investigate the murder of a white police
captain.  Cooper wants to find the truth, wherever that may take him, not
a popular attitude.  It is an attitude that just might get him
killed.  His superiors and the family are
certain some black man did the deed. 
Cooper is not so sure, he is troubled by the attitudes of the captain’s friends
and family.  The Security Branch roll
into town, ready to take over the investigation, teach Cooper not to look in
unpopular places, and if necessary beat a confession out of any convenient
black man. Malla Nunn was born in South Africa, she brings a real tension to
apartheid.  The next book in the series
is Let the Dead Lie.

— Deon Stonehouse

January 2009 Indie Next List

“A Beautiful Place to Die is a roaring good mystery, set in 1950s South Africa. Nunn combines issues of race, politics, and small-town power struggles in this provocative and atmospheric story about a murdered policeman.”
— Laura Hansen, Bookin' It, Little Falls, MN


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

About the Author

Malla Nunn was born in Swaziland, South Africa, and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. She is a filmmaker with three award-winning films to her credit, as well as the author of the Emmanuel Cooper crime series, When the Ground Is Hard, and Sugar Town Queens.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781416586210
ISBN-10: 1416586210
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: October 20th, 2009
Pages: 400
Language: English