Malla Nunn, Pan MacMillan
Silent Valley is a murder mystery set in Africa but it is not your usual whodunit.
Sergeant Cooper is not your usual detective. Traumatised by his childhood and the war, haunted by nightmares and a voice in his head suggesting how he should run his cases, he uses the skills and determination he gained from those experiences to help solve his cases.
He is assisted by a Zulu detective, Shabala, who is no Watson. In fact, he often seems smarter than Cooper.
Shabala provides information about the tribal customs and behaviours which make it possible for Cooper to interview suspects and witnesses. Shabala is my favourite character, although Gabriel, a young man who seems to have high functioning Autism and interferes and assists with the case, would run a close second.
The characters in Silent Valley are so real you can almost see them, even the mouthy Sergeant Major in Cooper’s head.
Silent Valley is both gripping and educational. The interaction of the characters reveals information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, concentration camp survivors, Afrikaners, religious, burial and marriage customs in Africa and Apartheid, particularly the arrogance practised at that time.
Silent Valley is also very earthy; there is strong language, sex scenes and a dead body attacked by vultures.