cover image Blessed Are the Dead

Blessed Are the Dead

Malla Nunn. Atria/Emily Bestler, $14 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1692-7

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). When Amahle Matebula, a 17-year-old Zulu girl and a chief’s daughter, is murdered in a farming hamlet outside Durban, Cooper, who’s of mixed race, and his assistant, Det. Constable Samuel Shabalala, of the Native Detective Branch, investigate. The father of the girl, who was promised in marriage to another chief in exchange for 20 cows, appears most concerned that he won’t receive the livestock. Matebula’s disappearance a few days earlier was reported to the local authorities, who did nothing. The corpse, which was laid out carefully with a blanket for a pillow, shows no sign of injury apart from a small bruise. Oddly, the local doctor is reluctant to help with a forensic examination. The anomalies all come together nicely by the end as Nunn brilliantly combines character and fair play clues. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (June)