Blessed are the Dead
It’s difficult to decide what is best about Malla Nunn’s most recent novel, Blessed are the Dead. The setting is the same as that of her earlier two critically acclaimed titles, A Beautiful Place to Die and Let the Dead Lie—South Africa, in the 1950s. And her lead character, Detective Emmanuel Cooper is back with a tragic and mysterious murder to solve. But there are so many other ways to look at and savor this book.
Each of Nunn’s characters is a gem—some polished, some pleasingly rough-cut, but all unique and memorable. By subtly handling the buried emotions and motives of both the white and the black worlds, the author brings us into the complex and exotic worlds of the Zulu clans and a violently divided white agricultural community. The settings, based on the author’s years spent in Swaziland, are ablaze with the colors of South Africa. Readers are transported—as if we’ve stepped out into the brush with Detective Cooper and his stalwart Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala as guides. The suspense is irresistible, and the mystery sustains itself well. This is a wonderfully effective addition to Nunn’s already masterful series of novels. A highly recommended novel.