Present Darkness by Malla Nunn

Present Darkness (Detective Emmanuel Cooper, #4)Present Darkness by Malla Nunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is from the wrong side of the tracks – the South African tracks, that is. He is a white man living with a colored woman in the apartheid era. A white married couple is murdered and their daughter identifies two black students as the murderers. Cooper realizes quickly that the girl is lying but doesn’t know why. The white police lieutenant seizes on the identification as a quick solve of a heinous crime. It is up to Cooper to ferret out the truth.

The setting, both geographic and cultural, is esoteric and interesting to western readers; at least it was to me. However, that’s about all I can say this book has going for it. The plot was predictable and the characters hackneyed. Zulu detective Shabalala is ripped from the pages of the comic books – magically able to track anyone or anything, move absolutely silently despite near superhuman size and strength, and having that native intuition that can tell when anyone is lying. The doctor with them can cure anyone of anything with whatever is at hand – a shoestring, a jar of honey. Cooper’s inherent goodness can convince anyone to trust him 100% and cooperate with the police regardless of personal risk and can take any amount of beating or torture without revealing critical information. The bad guys are so obvious that they might as well have appeared with a neon sign on their heads from the first page where they were introduced and of course have not a single redeeming characteristic. I expected a “bwa-ha-ha” at any moment. There is no mystery here. You know how it’s going to play out from around page 10; at least I did.

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