A Beautiful Place to Die, by Malla Nunn
I was intrigued by the description of this mystery set in 1950s South Africa. A lone detective is sent to deal with the murder of the small town's biggest landowner, a Boer and captain who kept a tight hold on the town and had a reputation for strict rectitude. His sons are demanding an arrest yesterday, and then the secret police show up...
The setting was fantastic. Loved that part. The detective I wasn't such a fan of; I didn't like him much and he was portrayed as puzzlingly unracist. He sounds modern, in a book that is set 60 years ago in a country that set up one of the most racist societies ever. There is an explanation of that at the end of the story, but I don't really buy it; it doesn't seem much of a reason that he's the only non-racist guy in all of 1952 South Africa.
Now that sets up an interesting question for me. Let's say you have the excellent intention of writing a story set in a society guaranteed to offend virtually any modern person--South Africa. The usual two options for a detective are an official of the police or a meddling amateur; both come with pitfalls in this scenario. An official, in order to be able to poke around and have enough rank, will have to be pretty white. At the same time, he's your protagonist and needs to be reasonably sympathetic. Is it possible to write a realistic, yet sympathetic, protagonist in this situation? Maybe not. As much as I dislike to read characters who are modern people dressed in historical costume, I might have to give a pass on this one.
The mystery was...eh. I didn't care for certain things, and they overshadowed the rest of it for me.