A Beautiful Place to Die

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A Beautiful Place to Die
Malla Nunn - A Beautiful Place to Die A Novel.jpeg
Author Malla Nunn
Country United States
Language English
Genre Mystery novel
Publisher Atria Books A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Publication date
6 January 2009
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 978-1-4165-8620-3
OCLC 209702892
823/.92 22
LC Class PR9619.4.N86 B43 2009

A Beautiful Place to Die is the debut novel of award-winning filmmaker Malla Nunn.[1]

Characters in A Beautiful Place to Die[edit]

Det. Emmanuel Cooper is the main character in the book. Chris Nashawaty describes the character as "an English WWII veteran who emigrated to Johannesburg in the early '50s, a toxic time when the country's racial divisions couldn't have been more black-and-white. He's a stranger in a strange land, not only because he doesn't use skin color to determine guilt or innocence but also because he barely understands just how deep these fault lines go."[2]

Major themes[edit]

Kirkus Reviews explains that race "is a major issue in the narrative; Afrikaners and people of color eye each other warily owing to the recent advent of laws that prescribe how whites and blacks can and can't interact....The author sets his story in Jacob's Rest, a small village with rigid racial distinctions."[3]

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Publisher's Weekly compares the book to Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series and calls it "a welcome addition to crime fiction set in South Africa."[4] USA Today declares the book "a great beginning to a series that mixes crime-solving with South African history."[5] Graeme Blundell praises the book as "lovely" and commends Nunn for setting "her characters brilliantly within a complex psychological portrayal of a particular time and place."[6] Jay strafford writes that the book "will long echo in your mind" and that "Nunn brings this entirely plausible work to a close and leaves the reader eager for the next case facing her winning, troubled protagonist."[1] Nashawaty writes that "as a character, Cooper's no Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. He feels sketchy, half-drawn--not quite alive yet. Next time out, we'll need...more cluses about what makes this new sleuth tick."[2] Nevertheless, Nasawaty still gives the book a B overall. Sarah Weinman writes, "Nunn teases out a complex tale of sexual depravity and family members prepared to protect even the worst of secrets in beautifully layered prose, but what makes A Beautiful Place to Die a debut to savor is the interplay between the cusp of social change and how then-socially accepted values seem monstrous to the modern reader."[7]

Publication history[edit]


  1. ^ a b JAY STRAFFORD, "Globe-trotting with the Grim Reaper," Richmond-Times Dispatch (25 January 2009).
  2. ^ a b Chris Nashawaty, "Books: Malla Nunn's thriller digs up a murder in '50s South Africa," Entertainment Weekly 1029 (9 January 2009), 65.
  3. ^ "Review of A Beautiful Place to Die," Kirkus Reviews 76.20 (10/15/2008): 1089-1090.
  4. ^ "Review of A Beautiful Place to Die," Publishers Weekly 255.43 (10/27/2008): 32.
  5. ^ Carol Memmott, "International mysteries," USA Today (01/29/2009): Life 05d.
  6. ^ Graeme Blundell, "Sod goodwill, give me crime," The Australian (6 December 2008).
  7. ^ Sarah Weinman, "Books in Brief," The Baltimore Sun (4 January 2009).