Please note: Blessed Are the Dead has also been published under the alternate title Silent Valley.
A remote town. A girl of rare and exquisite beauty. A murder that silences a whole community.
The body of a seventeen-year-old girl has been found covered in wildflowers on a hillside in the Drakensberg Mountains, near Durban. She is the daughter of a Zulu chief, destined to fetch a high bride price. Was Amahle as innocent as her family claims, or is her murder a sign that she lived a secret life?
Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is sent to investigate. He must enter the guarded worlds of a traditional Zulu clan and a white farming community to gather up the clues Amahle left behind and bring her murderer to justice. But the silence in the valley is deafening, and it seems that everyone - from the uncooperative local police officer, to the white farm boy who seems obsessed with the dead girl - has something to hide.
With no cause of death and no motive, Cooper's investigation is blocked at each turn. Can he tough it out, or will the small-town politics that stir up his feelings about the past be more than he can bear?
In this tale of murder and mystery, Nunn entangles us in a rich and complex web of witchcraft, tribalism, taboo relationships...and plain old-fashioned greed.
©2012 Malla Nunn (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Will ... resonate in your mind long after you have turned the last page." (Courier Mail)
I love all genres of books. However, when I listen to audio books as I clean, garden, drive they are better with a lot of heat!
I really loved this book. As an avid reader of police procedurals I am always on the lookout for a great series and Malla Nunn has really delivered with Blessed are the Dead. A beautiful Zulu girl has been found dead in the remote farming country of 1950’s apartheid South Africa and our troubled white police detective, with his native partner in tow, has been sent to dig in to the case.
The crime scene offers up very few clues, but just enough information for our team to start asking questions. Questions lead to more clues, more suspects, and so on until our wide circle slowly begins to tighten down on a few good possibilities. Nunn manages to keep the conclusion at a distance but allows you the reader to arrive at it simultaneously with the police. There are no jumps of logic or giant clues just falling in their path; they get to their killer one step at a time bringing you along for the ride. That is the hallmark of a masterful police procedural.
The book also offers up an indirect commentary on apartheid and racism in general, not only as it relates to blacks (natives) and whites, but the whole range of society and where each person fits into it. The different ranking order of the Dutch Afrikaners versus the British born farmers versus the Jewish Doctor was something I did not understand previously. Nunn opens this 1950’s world in a way that makes it seem more real as opposed to the blanket statements to be found in history texts.
But well written crime doesn’t come down to over the top killers or plots, rather it is firmly settled in the human flaws that have been with us since the beginning of time; Greed, Love, Jealousy, etc. At the end of the day most horrific acts are performed for the most commonplace reasons. Blessed are the Dead is a terrific look into these basest of emotions. Nunn has created a timeless mystery, a crime that could happen in 1950’s South Africa, or on your block tomorrow. This is definitely an author I will read their back-list and in turn keep on listening for as many books as they care to write.
Humphrey Bower was outstanding with the delivery of the story
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