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Taut thriller in the crucible of apartheid South Africa. Superb,
This review is from: A Beautiful Place to Die (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.