Police Detective Emmanuel Cooper has wrangled a temporary assignment in Johannesburg from Durban so that he can be near his beloved Davida and their daughter Rebekah. Emmanuel is called in on a bloody robbery of a white middle-class couple and the son of his best friend, Zulu Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala, is the prime suspect. But Emmanuel thinks the evidence has fallen into place a bit too glibly. He’s stymied in his efforts to truly investigate by a superior who seems to have it in for the Zulu teenager – who doesn’t help matters by refusing to give an alibi.
After that the events and action come fast and vividly. I first wondered if this book really was historical fiction. The action felt immediate and topical. As I kept reading (I had no choice, the book is a page turner!), I fell deeper and deeper into Jim Crow, or rather apartheid, South Africa. Nunn does a brilliant job of seeing that evil system through Emmanuel’s eyes.
Davida is a woman of color, meaning that Emmanuel’s love for her is illegal. That business of caste, of making some people more worthwhile than others, is at the heart of Present Darkness, where brutal men protecting a brutal system are rewarded and men like Emmanuel and Shabalala must fight their corrupt coworkers and the system itself in order to protect their loved ones.
This well-plotted book is like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces fit together with a terrible precision, and yet can be read with hope that the good guys will prevail. (It is a series, after all.) Recommended for anyone who loves a good mystery with a complicated, tough protagonist worth falling for.