Monday, February 10, 2014

Let me introduce you to your next favorite mystery series

I have thoroughly enjoyed Malla Nunn's Detective Emmanuel Cooper mystery series.  I read all three in just a few weeks, beginning with A Beautiful Place to Die and then continuing with  and Let the Dead Lie and Blessed Are the Dead .  The fourth book in the series, Present Darkness, comes out in June and I.  Cannot.  Wait.

Hopefully I did a good enough job of convincing you to read A Beautiful Place to Die that this whole post is unnecessary, but just in case - here's my pitch for you to read this series:

1.  The continuing narrative:  I know many people read mysteries because, well, they like trying to solve the puzzle, but I enjoy mysteries because of the character development that occurs over the course of the series.  I don't know who the first author was to do this, but it is brilliant and I am so in love with learning more about characters' backgrounds and seeing how that impacts their future.  This is particularly true with this series, as Emmanuel Cooper is a fascinating individual.  He has PTSD, and in addition to horrible nightmares, he also has a voice in his head whom I would like to know much more about.  He grew up in South Africa but left home at a very young age to be raised by other people.  He has a sister that we know next to nothing about.  He was married, and then very promptly divorced.  THERE ARE SO MANY MORE THINGS TO LEARN ABOUT HIM.  I can't wait to peel back the layers.

2.  Detective Shabalala and Dr. Zweigman:  These are Emmanuel's right-hand men.  Together, the three form a bit of a motley crew.  Emmanuel himself has a bit of a sketchy background, and working with an African man and a Jewish immigrant makes the whole team quite... striking.  Truly, part of Nunn's genius is in giving us access to not only a "white man's" point of view but also letting us see how apartheid in South Africa impacted other groups of people.  I love how clear-cut the rules are about what whites and blacks and everyone in between can and cannot do.  (For example, Detective Shabalala is not allowed to drive a car.)  And just how completely murky the situations are in which the rules are actually enforced, and the many ways people work around them.  It's amazing and brilliant.

Which brings me to the third reason why this series is worth your time.

3.  The setting:  1950s South Africa, right at the start of apartheid.  Combine this setting with #2 above, three main characters of different races and origins, and you have a very rich canvas on which to write your stories.

Highly recommended - seriously, go read these books!


  1. Wow this does sound good! I'll have to give it a try.

  2. Anonymous2/10/2014

    Thanks. I couldn't agree more with your enthusiasm for this series. You do an excellent job describing it.

  3. You may have convinced me, even though I keep saying I need to read something other than mysteries.

  4. This does sound rather fascinating!

  5. I'm jelouse of you :0) how many books you've read :0)
    I hope you were my friend and I could borrow your books to read :P

  6. I just read the first two books in this series because of your recommendation. Thanks! They were great. Looking forward to the next two.

  7. I just read the first two books in this series because of your recommendation. Thanks! They were great. Looking forward to the next two.


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