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Silent valley by Malla Nunn

Silent valley (edition 2012)

by Malla Nunn

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503233,859 (4.05)2
Title:Silent valley
Authors:Malla Nunn
Info:Sydney : Pan Macmillan Australia, 2012.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Emmanuel Cooper, South Africa, audio book, library

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Blessed Are the Dead: An Emmanuel Cooper Mystery by Malla Nunn



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This novel is set in South Africa in October 1953. It is a world still divided by apartheid, blacks are always treated as "kaffirs", and white supremacy is assumed.

With Emmanuel Cooper comes his Zulu constable Shabalala. Apartheid means he can't stay in the same hotels as Cooper, or dine at the same tables, but he can get the "real" story from the servants, and he understands local Zulu customs.

SILENT VALLEY is a very atmospheric novel. Malla Nunn is able to transport 21st century readers to a very different culture, and help us to see the crime with very different eyes.

Life is not easy for Emmanuel Cooper. He is descended from Boers and is still not accepted in police circles dominated by whites even though he has the patronage of Colonel van Niekerk who is also an Afrikaaner. van Niekerk will take the credit for Cooper's successes, but will quickly disown him when he fails.

If you've never read any of this series before I would suggest you start at the beginning, so you get the full story (although of course you can read SILENT VALLEY as a stand alone). But there are characters who were created in the first and second novels who are important in the third and so you will understand more if you read them in order. They are available for Kindle ( )
  smik | Oct 10, 2013 |
A complex story set in 1950s South Africa. This mystery is a police procedural about the murder investigation of a teenage Zulu girl. However, what it really portrays along the way is the society, customs, lifestyles and relationships that divide the peoples of apartheid South Africa. In contrast with the distressing attitudes that prevailed, the white police sergeant and his Zulu constable are a winning team. I look forward to more in this series. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Oct 1, 2013 |
The Emmanuel Cooper books by Malla Nunn, set in 1950's South Africa, are another excellent series in what is luckily now becoming a bigger range of crime fiction set in various parts of Africa. SILENT VALLEY (aka BLESSED ARE THE DEAD) is the third book now, centred around Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper, a policeman with plenty of demons from his past. Knowing that his past is closely intertwined with a society based on Apartheid will help the reader understand some of the difficulties that Cooper faces, just as understanding the intrinsic brutality of that system will give his struggle context.

Not that these books over-bake the personal situations, but the death of seventeen-year-old Amahle, daughter of a Zulu chief, in a society fraught with complications, inevitably takes everyone into the personal. Especially as there is no obvious motive for the death of a girl who, on the face of it, was destined for traditional marriage and life. There's a clever balancing act going on in this book - whilst the death of Amahle remains the central focus of Cooper and his investigation, the reader is also provided with a very personal and telling look into the nature of Apartheid. There is an extra element to that - not just the tension between black and white; but also the tension between the White Boer settlers and the later English arrivals.

In the middle of what is basically a whole heap of mistrust and dislike, there's some very well written individual characterisations and some touching partnerships. Cooper and his colleague, Zulu Constable Shabalala share a respect and understanding which is obviously outside the boundaries of racial acceptability, to say nothing of police procedure and hierarchy. In much the same way Cooper is able to reach out to the young British son of a local farmer, regarded as wild and not a little odd, Cooper and Gabriel connect - perhaps their mutual difference being part of what makes them work together. Really, that concept of difference being a connecting point weaves it's way through the entire narrative with so many of the characters prepared, often seemingly required, to be different, to survive in a society which most definitely does not approve.

What's particularly interesting is the way that this series is progressing. The first two books - A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE, and LET THE DEAD LIE - introduced Cooper, established the brutality of the world in which he lives, and set about creating a character who is real, conflicted and complex; somebody who is profoundly affected by the events that happen around him.

SILENT VALLEY takes another step forward again, building in a stronger sense of place and the different groups within the society. The inclusion of a strong Zulu cultural, societal and family environment into this book adds an extra layer to the ongoing storyline, and to reader's understanding of the complications of 1950's South Africa that was moving and instructive.

Part of what is really working in this series is the progression, and the way that the characters and the sense of place is building. SILENT VALLEY could work on some level as a standalone, but there will be a greater understanding of the characters and the place if you can read the series in order. If you've not caught up with any of Malla Nunn's Emmanuel Cooper books - now is as good a time as any. ( )
1 vote austcrimefiction | May 1, 2012 |
Showing 3 of 3
Nunn once again vividly recaptures 1950s South Africa in her gripping and thoughtful third mystery featuring Det. Sgt. Emmanuel Cooper (after 2010’s Let the Dead Lie).
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"Emmanuel Cooper's life is finally back on track when a request comes from Colonel van Niekerk on the eve of his wedding and Cooper, with Shabalala, must report to the local police station in Balgowan, a small trading post in the Natal Midlands. There has been an anonymous phone tip claiming that "something bad" has happened on Little Flint Farm. Emmanuel knows that his boss would not send two city detectives into isolated farm country without good cause. Something has to be up. Cooper and Shabalala head into the Midlands where horse stables and cultivated fields dot the wide valleys. The Station Sergeant's books are clean, except for a minor matter: the disappearance of an adolescent Zulu girl from her family kraal in the wild foothills of the Drakensberg. Who is this she, this fifteen-year-old named "Amahle," the beautiful one? Where has she gone and why is the local Sergeant so reluctant to search for her? Fuelled by the instinctive knowledge that something "bad" really has happened out on Little Flint Farm, Cooper and Shabalala plunge into the class driven world of transplanted English aristocrats and the tradition bound world of the old Zulu chiefs. Together, Cooper and Shabalala must break the silence of the opposing communities and dig through buried secrets until they find out what happened to the girl, and why... no matter the cost"--… (more)

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