A Beautiful Place To Die (Detective Emmanuel Cooper, #1)
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A Beautiful Place To Die (Detective Emmanuel Cooper #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,155 ratings  ·  287 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 2009 by Picador USA (first published 2008)
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Jeanette (Most of My Favorite Authors Are Dead)
Malla Nunn writes with such a sure and steady hand that it's hard to believe this is a first novel. She really knows how to string you along with the mystery, keeping you reading as the secret lives of the characters are slowly revealed.

The mystery itself is excellent, but the intimate look at rural apartheid in South Africa is equally as interesting, if not more so. The story takes place in 1952, shortly after the National Party has enacted very strict new segregation laws. It's against the la...more
Excellent debut novel by Mala Nunn, takes place in 1952 south Africa as the new apartheid laws are being encoded and enforced. Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, a WWII veteran, is sent to a small town to investigate the murder of the local police captain. what follows is a tale of complex racial relationships, family pride and power, negotiating the new laws while trying to solve a murder, and dealing with other forces of government who may not care who is really guilty.

Well written, with an i...more
What a brilliant book! My first Malla Nunn, and what a beginning!

Detective Emmanuel Cooper found himself in Jacob’s Rest, a tiny town situated on the border of South Africa and Mozambique. He’d been sent there to investigate a suspected homicide, but his superior was convinced it was a hoax, so only spared Emmanuel to check it out. But what he found was an Afrikaner police captain who had been murdered, and his only help in the investigation were an 18 year old white boy, who had recently donned...more
Book Him Danno
If you love police procedurals get on this series right now! The author is only three books in and they are absolutely fantastic.

I love a great mystery, especially one that can educate me on a part of history I know nothing about beyond the basics. The hero of the books is English police detective Emmanuel Cooper, trying to balance the tensions of learning the truth to solve the case, and the racial policies of 1950’s apartheid South Africa. The white police captain has been found murdered in...more
Jan 08, 2013 Pauline rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Wallander fans
A Beautiful Place to Die is a cracker of a novel. In the book we see 1950s South Africa through the eyes of Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, sent to investigate the death of an Afrikaner police captain in the small town of Jacob’s Rest near the border with Mozambique.

Emmanuel reminds me of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, polite, neither unkind nor easily intimidated, resigned to his lot of long days and headaches, and wearily facing down human cruelty in all its petty, pathetic and monstrou...more
The first in the Detective Emmanuel Cooper Mysteries, A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE is set in 1950's apartheid South Africa. Cooper is sent to investigate the murder of the local Afrikaner Police Captain --the father of the town's powerful Pretiorus family. He is aided by the town's only black Zulu police officer and a Jewish doctor transplant from WW2. Cooper is having to work secretly and carefully because of the politically powerful Security Branch, which is determined to ring a confession from a...more
Marcia - Book Muster Down Under
The Blurb
“In her “stellar” (Publishers Weekly) debut, 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. When an Afrikaner police officer is murdered, the powerful police Security Branch, dedicated to flushing out black communist radicals, pre-empts Detective Emmanuel Cooper’s investigation. But Cooper isn’t interested in political expediency and has never been one for making friend...more
James Thane
This outstanding debut novel got a well-deserved nomination for an Edgar award for best novel of the year (2010). Nunn creates a vivid portrait of South Africa in 1952, and sets into that world a memorable cast of characters.

The main protagonist, Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, is sent to a small town to investigate the murder of the local police captain who is also the head of a prominent local family. Cooper soon finds himself up against the captain's family and the national security polic...more
Richard Kunzmann
A Beautiful Place to Die – Malla Nunn

Turn back the clock to 1952, South Africa. The National Party is at the height of its power and, to paraphrase the author, not a year goes past without the government introducing some new heinous law that can be broken by virtue of a person’s skin colour.
The body of Captain Willem Pretorius is found floating in a river bordering on Mozambique, and Detective Emmanuel Cooper is sent from Johannesburg to investigate the killing. At first smugglers are...more
Malla Nunn does deal with some terrible aspects of South African history and culture - terrible when viewed from an Australian perspective - but she never bashes you over the head with any moralising, which would have been so tempting. She lets characters in the story destroy themselves and their culture through their actions - her writing is good crime stuff but in the tradition of the best writers she reflects on social issues and gives insights to those of us who have not experienced them.
G.P. Field
I am an (Afrikaans - Pommy - Italian) Aussie immigrant from SA with strong links to the area where this book is set. I'm old enough to have lived as a child under apartheid and so this book really spoke to me. The story is good, the characters convincing and the setting evocative. Strongly recommended.
Not only was this book a good read from the standpoint of its genre, mystery, it also explores the race issue in South Africa. I learned a great deal about the laws there, the harshness of apartheid, and the sadness of it all in such a beautiful setting.
This is, on the surface, a murder mystery. But it is set in a small town in South Africa, on the boarder with Mozambique, in 1952. The historical timing of the setting of the story immediately changes this novel from a mere murder mystery to a political comment. And I think it meets both challenges it sets itself very well.

Detective Emmanuel Cooper is sent to investigate what is thought to be a hoax call in the small town of Jacob’s Rest. What he actually lands up investigating is the murder of...more
Dec 11, 2012 Katy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Katy by: Amazon Vine
Shelves: vine-book
I read this book in September of 2008. I received it from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

My synopsis: A Beautiful Place to Die is, when broken down to its core, a murder mystery - Sgt. Detective Emmanual Cooper is called to the small town of Jacobs Rest in Southwest Africa on what is believed to be a hoax call, only to discover the body of a white man - the police captain, no less - floating in the river. Left to cope on his own, being driven out of the case by men from...more
This was my favorite out of the random 5 books I picked up at the library the last time I was there. An intriguingly complex murder mystery set in South Africa in the 1950's, I felt this novel gave me the most insight into another culture, country, and history than any of the other books so far in my Books From Around the World challenge. There was never a moment I got bored or felt the story to be in a lull period. I also enjoyed the writing style of Malla Nunn. Sophisticated yet smoothly paced...more
De (hoofd)personen uit Een mooie plek om te sterven kwamen voor mij niet echt tot leven. De goede(n) te goed en de slechterik(ken) te clownesk slecht. Allemaal net een beetje 'te' en vooral een beetje te ongeloofwaardig, te houterig. Het is jammer, want op zich is het verhaal dat verteld wordt, in die 'setting' als basis wel heel intrigerend. Ik had graag wat meer inzicht gehad in de verhouding tussen Willem Pretorius en Shabalala, want dat lijkt toch de spil van het verhaal. Omdat Willem Pretor...more
A timely read so soon after the death of Nelson Mandela in Dec.'13. It reminded me again of the sheer brilliance of this man who would go from prisoner to President to deny the corruption and, more importantly, the existence, of any system of Gov't. that separates people according to race, religion, etc..

A glimpse into apartheid South Africa made this much more than a generic mystery novel. Well done, Malla Nunn .
I picked up this up for $1 at a library book sale. The book cover said the magic words: South Africa--a big interest of mine. The mystery takes place in rural South Africa when the Afrikaaner sheriff is found dead. I liked the way it explored cultural issues and complexities of South Africa. The characters were interesting. Provided a sense of the conflicts between the various races and nationalities in the 1950s. Enough twists and discoveries to meet the mystery need. Kept me engaged night afte...more
Nunn has created a great plot and excellent characterizations in this first in the Detective Emmanuel Cooper series. She also helps the reader see the beauties of South Africa, such a great contrast to the racism of the time (early 1950s), when the National Party had enacted laws that increased the penalties for relationships of any kind between the races. This aspect of life colors (pun intended) every description, conversation, and action in the book, and the author really helps the reader com...more
Lyndsay Faye
Absolutely fabulously fantastic sense of time, place, dialog, character.
Powerful writing and a stomach-turning description of South AFrica as Apartheid legislation was ruthlessly put in place in the early Fifties. Must read on how a twisted ideology can pervert a country and its social/civil institutions
Michael Scott
A fresh voice. Prose that gently grips you by the throat and doesn't let go. The harsh realities of the '50s in South Africa as a backdrop to an intriguing tale of a conflicted protagonist. Well worth the read.
- a bit heavier on the testosterone than I would have expected from a woman writer
- I'm not sure how seriously we can take a white writer's portrayal of non-white South Africans (but, hey, this isn't pretending to be literature)

- captivating plot, easy to read
- several complex characters, of whom 3-4 are appealing
- totally unexpected ending
- unusual and throught-provoking setting

If all you're looking for is a well-written mystery novel, this will do just fine. If nothing els...more
Helene Young
Another excellent book from Malla Nunn.
Excellent! Didn't want to finish it!
This book made me sick to my stomach. Too much violence and sex and not a single character to like (maybe Shabalalah, and maybe the old Jew - but both of those seem too perfect or too caricatured to be believable). And it didn't bring S. Africa to life, either. All I got from this was a confusion of races (no real explanation of who's who: Indian? is that as in from India? or native?), and a description of a country that makes me wonder why anyone (ie the English) would immigrate there, and that...more
Paul Pessolano
This mystery takes place in Jacobs Rest in South Africa. It is a story that encompasses both the morality and apartheid laws that were prevalent in South Africa during the 1950's.

Detective Emmanuel Cooper, an Englishman, is called out to investigate the murder of Captain Pretorius. Pretorius is the head of an Afrikaner family who relies on apartheid to maintain their position in the community. Pretorius's murder leads Cooper on an investigation that has him at odds not only with the Pretorius fa...more
I didn't live in 1950s South Africa – but the novel of Malla Nunn gave me a vivid description of this difficult time (OK, South Africa doesn't seem to have had easy times at any point). I really liked the book: The criminal case is not too complicated but has some twists and turns in the end, bringing a lot of suspense on the last pages. I also liked the characterisations of the protagonists, which don't go into abundant details but sound reasonable and credible for every portrayed person, espec...more
Rob Kitchin
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 Coloured...more
The good: with it taking place in South Africa in the 1950s, there was a lot of interesting political, moral, gender, historical and cultural intricacies that were woven into the mystery. The story held together really really well through the first 90%.

The bad: the last 10%. The author seemed to be more interested in throwing everything in the path of his main character than he was in progressing the story. I was so frustrated with how events crippled the story's progress. I understand the need...more
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Currently resides in Sydney, Australia. Her motto: We are people through other people.

More about Malla Nunn...
Let The Dead Lie (Detective Emmanuel Cooper, #2) Blessed Are the Dead  (Detective Emmanuel Cooper #3) Present Darkness (Detective Emmanuel Cooper, #4) The Malla Nunn Collection #1: A Beautiful Place to Die, Let the Dead Lie, and Blessed Are the Dead The Malla Nunn Reader's Companion: A Collection of Excerpts

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