A Beautiful Place to Die

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After a phone call reporting a mysterious crime, Sergeant Detective Emmanuel Cooper arrives in Jacob’s Rest to investigate the murder of Willem Pretorius, the small South African town’s white police captain.  It is 1952, only a few years after the institution of apartheid, and Jacob’s Rest is strictly divided along racial lines.  Though Emmanuel tries to discover the town’s secrets — and those of Captain Pretorius — he is thwarted at every turn. 

As Emmanuel pursues various leads in the investigation and the government’s violent Security Branch begins to dominate the case with suspicions of communism, his own haunted past threatens to overtake him.  

"Darkness surrounded him as he stopped now and then to listen to the voices drifting out of back rooms. An evening prayer over dinner, an argument, a child’s unsettled cry … The people of Jacob’s Rest were preparing to say goodbye to another day. […] Off to his right a cat-like footfall disturbed the undergrowth then fell silent. Emmanuel stayed still and listened as another footstep advanced in the dark. Something or someone was moving slowly in his direction. He eased his weight forward and the gate fell back into place with a loud click. Emmanuel launched himself in the direction of the sounds. He heard a sharp release of breath and the slither of a body in the dark.”

Malla Nunn is a screenwriter, director, and the author of four novels featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper: A Beautiful Place to DieLet the Dead LieBlessed Are the Dead and Present Darkness. She spent her childhood in Swaziland, and later immigrated to Australia with her family to escape apartheid. She currently lives in Sydney.

Published: 2008
Length: 384 pages
Main Setting: South Africa
Secondary Setting: Mozambique