Have you found a beautiful place to die? Malla Nunn, born in South Africa and residing in Australia, writes about this place in her crime novel.
One of the main characters in this novel is dead, his name is Willem Pretorius, he was the chief of police in the Jacob’s Rest, near the border with Mozambique. He was also the pillar of society, son-in-law of a leading light in the world of apartheid. His family ran the place and made sure that everything went according to the will of Pretorius.
Emmanuel Cooper is a policeman who arrives in this village from Jo’burg. His task to find out who murdered this pillar and staunch supporter of the new political order in 1952. He has an English background, not a Boer one. In his slow but persistent way he sets about his work and unravels thread after thread. Not even the interference of the security services can make him packing. He has the backing of his senior Van Niekerk, who runs his own agenda.
In this novel we encounter a regime of apartheid at the local level, the whites(especially the Boer) who stick together, all others are outsiders for instance the Jewish shopkeeper Zweigman from Germany who has a hidden past. And what about the rich farmer Elliott King, who bought a parcel of land from Pretorius, a transaction not liked by the sons of Pretorius. Cooper searches the outskirts for clues and people who might want to drop a word. He travels to Mozambique to search for clues that can open the secrets of Pretorius. Cooper is being helped by the policeman Shabalala, who went through his traditional Zulu ceremonies together with young Willem Pretorius.
As part of the apartheid rules we find the decency concept of staying within the limits of your colour (or perceived colour). Did Willem Pretorius cross borders? Did his wife and children know? Did Shabalala know? Or has it been a false trail?
Malla has spun a colourful tale, she has woven a nice and captivating story. It is a pity that at the end the different strands of the story do not easily come together, a bit too much force was needed to finish the handiwork of this novel.
Malla Nunn – A beautiful place to die – 2008