A Beautiful Place To Die

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper switched off the engine and looked out through the dirty windscreen.

Cop stories are always a bit risky in my opinion. Will there be plenty of world building, did the author dodge enough clichés to make it feel original. After all, it’s always a case that will or won’t be solved. And the protagonist is usually a bitter cop. There are plenty of clichés in A Beautiful Place To Die, but Malla Nunn knits them together with a layered plot.

A Beautiful Place To Die plays out in apartheid South Africa. A white police man is killed, another is put on the job. Because the victim is white, quick result is expected. When the detective realizes that there is much more going on than just a murder, and the National Security Branch starts meddling, things start rolling. Fast.

Nunn shows how idiotic and crippling all the apartheid laws are, how humans are still human, even when some consider others less. She shows that there is a difference between personal life and social appearance but mostly just – with easy looking sketches – creates real characters. Possibly more exciting than this entire whodunnit case.

A Beautiful Place To Die, Malla Nunn, Picador 2009

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