Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Malla Nunn
Let the Dead Lie is a well rounded, believable novel that should gain a wide audience, as well as being a work in which contemporary historians and those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder should take an interest
Author: Malla Nunn
This suspenseful novel from award-winning author Malla Nunn is taut and tightly paced. Set in 1953 in South Africa, a country that surrounds Nunn’s country of birth, Swaziland, the detective novel masterfully blends all elements that are required in such a text. Whether it is read as a sequel to Nunn’s impressive debut novel, A Beautiful Place to Die, or by itself matters little, but that it is most definitely worth reading by anyone interested in the detective genre is a cert.
The action in Let the Dead Lie centers around the deductive work of a former detective sergeant, Emmanuel Cooper. Emmanuel was earlier forced to buy his release from the police force on pain of otherwise being dishonorably discharged for an action that, under a more just system than the reigning apartheid regime, would not have been necessary. Within 48 hours, Emmanuel has to solve a crime without the backup of the resources that would have been available to him as a matter of course if he had been part of the conventional police force. Not only does Emmanuel have to cope with the thugs and criminals that formed part of the underworld of the time, but he also finds himself up against those who would, prior to his disgrace, have been his colleagues. With the threat of a jail sentence hanging over his head if he does not solve the crime, involving the murder of a young white boy, which rapidly escalates into the murder of three victims, in time, Emmanuel has no time to waste. Each page is more gripping than the first, as Emmanuel’s deadline looms ever closer.
In addition to those striving to outwit or outrun him, Emmanuel also has his own inner demons with which to contend. As a demobbed soldier who has survived the burned out battlefields of Western Europe, Emmanuel is constantly besieged by ever-present imaginary figures, such as a brutal and callous Scottish sergeant major, who appear to him in the form of pounding migraines, from whom he can only escape by resorting to taking whatever drugs are at hand.
The description of the low-life types that frequent the Durban docklands are fascinating, as are the range of prostitutes that tread these pages. The social inequalities of the time, which were entrenched in the National Party’s legislative approach to the governance of multiracial South Africa, are revealed in full. The use of such a background is an effective means of keeping alive the memory of the horrendous deeds that were perpetrated by the apartheid state. However, at no stage does Nunn dictate what the response of the reader should be to such inequity and violation of basic human rights. Her primary intent is to tell a first rate story, peopled by three dimensional, credible characters, and this she achieves to the full.
Let the Dead Lie is a well rounded, believable novel that should gain a wide audience, as well as being a work in which contemporary historians and those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder should take an interest.