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A Beautiful Place to Die [Paperback]

Malla Nunn
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Jan 2010

When an Afrikaans police captain is murdered in a small South African country town, Detective Emmanuel Cooper must navigate his way through the labyrinthine racial and social divisions that split the community. And as the National Party introduces the laws to support the system of apartheid, Emmanuel struggles – much like Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko – to remain a good man in the face of astonishing power.

In a considered but very commercial novel, Malla Nunn combines a compelling plot with a thoughtful and complex portrayal of a fascinating period of history, illustrating the human desires that drive us all, regardless of race, colour or creed.

A Beautiful Place To Die is the first of a planned series of novels featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper.

‘A terrific page-turning debut. Clever and multi-layered in its portrayal of the people and landscape of apartheid South Africa. I loved it’ Minette Walters

‘Remarkable’ Literary Review

'A first crime novel of considerable power ' Sydney Morning Herald


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0330461001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330461009
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Crime writers understand how place exposes character but the best, like Nunn, explore the idea that place is also fate.' -- The Autralian

'Page-turning, clever and multi-layered in its portrayal of the people and landscape of Apartheid South Africa. I loved it.' -- Minette Walters

'Smooth prose and a deft plot make this novel a welcome addition to crime fiction set in South Africa.'
-- Publishers Weekly

'[Nunn] has written a first crime novel of considerable power.' -- Sydney Morning Herald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'[Nunn] has written a first crime novel of considerable power.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Rowena Hoseason HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This novel could be classed as an 'historical detective story' but there is nothing chintzy or twee about it. Malla Nunn mixes the chaotic social situation of post-war South Africa with an intriguing murder investigation.
The story reveals how apartheid affected different classes/colours of people in the decade after WW2, and gave me a whole new insight into the polyglot nature of SA society. But it's not just a history lesson -- the plot, which revolves around the murder of an Afrikaans Police Captain, is intriguing in its own right. The core characters of the tale are interesting too: the protagonist is an isolated detective from Jo-burg, shell-shocked from WW2 and out on a limb against the interests of the security service. The hero has to rely on various locals including a Jewish emigre who has his own share of secrets, and the native population including the dead Captain's 'spiritual brother'. Almost everyone has something to hide -- and almost all of the secrets revolve around the tightening race laws of the time.
The writing is extremely accessible and although many of the plot devices are conventional I didn't find that 'A Beautiful Place To Die' was in any way predictable. I hope Malla Nunn follows it up with more stories set in the same time and place so we can see how some of the characters develop... and her descriptions of the veldt and the township are stunning.
A more than competant debut.
8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting thriller 23 Nov 2012
By D. Evans VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With Scandevia set crime novels proving so popular at the moment, it is refreshing to read a crime novel set in a different location. 'A Beautiful Place to Die' is based in South Africa during the 1950's. The novel, which is the debut by writer Malla Nunn, is about the murder of a Police Office and the subsequent investigation. The main character Emmanuel Cooper finds that his investigation is not as straight forward as he might have hoped. The book deals with race issues and captures the uncertainity of living in South Africa during this period. There are some loopholes within the book, but this is an impressive debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent sense of place and time 12 May 2012
By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A Beautiful Place to Die has all the ingredients of a good crime novel - social tension between individuals and groups, interesting historical context, excellent characterization, strong sense of place, good pacing and a well constructed plot. The novel is set not long after the National Party came to power in 1948 and started to push a strong apartheid agenda and Nunn uses this context to good effect, especially the simmering tensions between Dutch Afrikaners, English White, Blacks and Coloureds, and even Jewish refugees from Germany, and exploring the blurred lines between these groups. The characters are well penned and memorable, and the dialogue and scenes were well judged. The sense of place is particularly strong, capturing both the landscape of rural South Africa and the geography of apartheid in terms of how space was carved up and traversed. The plot builds nicely, with a number of blinds and twists, though ultimately in striving for increasing tension the end wobbles a little by stretching plausibility to the limit and becoming a little too over-melodramatic. This was a shame as the book really was excellent up until this point. Regardless, there is much to like about A Beautiful Place to Die, and Nunn has the foundation for an enjoyable series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who-done-it in Africa 24 Aug 2011
By DubaiReader TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was a reasonable who-done-it style narrative, with enough interest to keep me going to the end but a little thin on the character development and a bit confusing at times.

The historical setting was its strength - an insight into the apartheid system of 1950's South Africa. The story revolves around the murder of Afrikaans policeman, Captain Willem Pretorius and the gradual unravelling of the details by Detective Emmanuel Cooper.
This was not a comfortable time to be black in South Africa and I did find some of the brutality a bit disturbing.

I thnk that, had I realised this was to be the first in a series, then I would probably have avoided it. Although the progression of apartheid up until its dissolution might make for interesting reading, I doubt I will be following Detective Emmanuel Cooper in his next adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TT02 29 April 2011
Format:Paperback
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper switched off the engine and looked out through the dirty windscreen.

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 151): Every colour from fresh milk to burnt sugar was on show. There was enough direct evidence in the churchyard to refute that blood mixing was unnatural. Plenty of people managed to do it just fine.

KEEP IT OR NOT?: A reading group book, I shall return this for other readers to read and discuss.

A debut novel that I both enjoyed reading and learnt a lot from - I will certainly be looking out for further books by this author. A real page-turner - the crime/thriller aspect to the story was interesting enough but, for me, it was the insight into 1950s South Africa that was so fascinating.Well researched, A Beautiful Place To Die tells the story of a country segregated not only into 'whites' and 'blacks' but also into 'coloureds' as well - throw a Jewish character into the racial stew and you have a compelling if somewhat disturbing look at a country where, and I quote .....

"The new segregation laws divided people into race groups, told them where they could live and told them where they could work. The Immorality Act went so far as to tell people who they could sleep with and love."

Not only a good plot, there is a real mix of wonderfully observed characters who, though not always pleasant, are always human and make for great reading. My only 'complaint'? I would love to know more about the previous lives of 'English' South African Detective Emmanuel Cooper and Jewish doctor (?) Daniel Zweigman and hope the author explores at least Cooper in greater depth in her second book Let the Dead Lie
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A convincing detective novel set in the early days of Apartheid South...
Emmanuel Cooper detective has been sent to a small rural town in South Africa to track down the killer of the local white police chief. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ms Valerie A. Binney
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but overall, unconvincing.
Most of the book doesn't live up to the promise of the first chapter, but there's enough intrigue in the plot to keep you pressing on. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Samantha Brightwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive debut set in Apartheid South Africa
This impressive debut novel is set in South Africa in 1952, in the immediate aftermath of the election which resulted in the Boer government and specifically the Immorality Act, by... Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2011 by Maxine Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid South-African Set Debut
Africa remains a relatively unexplored setting for crime novels, so I was pleased to come across this book set in 1950s South Africa. Read more
Published on 30 Dec 2010 by A. Ross
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but mostly stereotypical characters
First Sentence: Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper switched off the engine and looked out through the dirty windscreen. Read more
Published on 21 Oct 2010 by L. J. Roberts
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychological Schisms Through Racial Lines....
The typical detective franchise is something that has always held a large group of "casual" readers in it's thrall, as they encompass two things; namely they are easy to read, and... Read more
Published on 3 Mar 2010 by Brady Orme
3.0 out of 5 stars Agreed : readable, but slow
This is a story about the murder of a policeman in South Africa during the 1950's. The protagonist is a British South African policeman (Emmanuel Cooper)who is sent to investigate. Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by johnverp
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
I expected this to be very different from the usual crime thriller novel, with the setting and intriguing character introduction. Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2009 by B Keeler
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