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Customer reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

on 12 May 2012
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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on 3 July 2017
This is an immensely readable book. It has thoughtfully presented characters, and places them into the complex world of apartheid - lifting the vail that kept communities separate, while tackling a murder mystery. The book also questions how different races create myths about themselves. Well worth reading.
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on 28 September 2014
This was a book I just could not put down. I devoured it in three days wanting to know what happened next and Sat up till 3 am to finish it totally gripped. I loved the descriptions of South Africa the multi layering of plot and characters. The beauty and sadness of 1950s South Africa and apartheid are conveyed movingly. A brilliant whodunit but written exceedingly well. Fantastic book. Thank you. It works on all levels for me pace plot character setting.
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on 9 October 2017
This is one of the best detective novels I have read. Thrilling story, wonderful characters that are genuinely interesting. Captures the nuances , vitality, courage and pain of South Africa in the 1950s perfectly while never preaching. Interesting twists and turns and wonderful writing. Have now read the whole series as have all my friends. Hope a new one comes soon.
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on 8 July 2013
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. The local community assume the killer is black and resent Cooper as an intruder. Woven into the novel are all the political intrigues of Apartheid at that time. The local cops are determined to keep their leading white family's nose clean, the secret service descent to pin the murder on an ANC suspect they are chasing and only Cooper and his trusty black side-kick, Shabalala are searching for the truth, at great risk to themselves. A thriller with fascinating insights into SA of the time.
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on 8 May 2016
Good reading.
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on 28 August 2015
Well written, so realistic but what sad times they were in South Africa...makes you so glad the injustices are no more !
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on 22 July 2015
Something a bit different which I found gripping in parts and thought was well written with flair and imagination. I'll now try some other work by this author.
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on 8 September 2014
An excellent read with an honest portrayal of South Africa at the time the apartheid regime was being brought into law.
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on 9 May 2013
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. The most appealing characters are Zweigman and Shabalala, who remain peripheral throughout. Detective Cooper is a thinly-painted puppet to carry the writer's movement through the story and at times the narrative becomes didactic. Point of view is also confusing in places, as the writer's voice rides roughshod over what should be the thoughts or reflections of the Protagonist. This further adds to the problem of Detective Cooper being underdeveloped - a sort of grey space in the middle of it all. No Harry Hole, Rebus or Marlowe. The chosen era of the 1950s also fails to exert its presence in the novel and seems merely to be used to provide the backdrop of racial segregation and The Immorality Law that is so crucial to the plot. The plot resolution breaks a fundamental rule of writing, with our hero being saved by an Act of God, or in this case, a sudden change of heart in a character who has been virtually invisible thought the story. I could have overlooked the other flaws but this is lazy and foolish. Pity.
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