In 1950s South Africa the colour of a killer's skin matters more than justice ....
In the tiny 'deep country' town of Jacob's Rest, Detective Emmanuel Cooper is sent to investigate the vicious murder of an Afrikanner police officer, Captain Willem Pretorius.
Cooper, an 'English' South African, is viewed with suspicion by both the Boer Afrikaners and the dead man's prominent family, and his investigation is quickly taken over by the police security branch, who are eager to pin the blame on black supposed political agitators.
But Cooper isn't interested in political expediency, or in making friends with the hardliners in Pretoria. As he pursues his own line of enquiry, he discovers that Captain Pretorius, a man whose relationship with his community were complicated, and more human, than his true Volk wife and sons can ever imagine, led a secret double life.
The more Cooper digs, the more dangerous the investigation becomes. For Cooper is a man with his own secrets, and learning the truth about Captain Pretorius just might save his own life ...... if he isn't killed first.
........ Inner front cover.
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.
The 38th book read in my 100+ Reading Challenge.