Thursday, October 6, 2016
Book Review: Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Publisher: Atria / 37 INK
Source: ARC from publisher for honest review
The award-winning author of The Last Town on Earth delivers a riveting and elegant police procedural set in 1948 Atlanta, exploring a murder, corrupt police, and strained race relations that feels ripped from today's headlines.
Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers; they aren’t allowed to arrest white suspects, drive squad cars, or set foot in the police headquarters.
When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Their investigation sets them up against a brutal cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood as his own, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world—a world on the cusp of great change.
Set in the postwar, pre-civil rights South, and evoking the socially resonant and morally complex crime novels of Dennis Lehane and Walter Mosley, Darktown is a vivid, smart, intricately plotted crime saga that explores the timely issues of race, law enforcement, and the uneven scales of justice.
It's taken me some time to actually sit down and get this review written, just like it took me some time to sit down and finish the book. It was such a slow starter for me, that I continuously stopped and started this book over and over. I'm not too sure what the problem was exactly, but I think it was a mixture of knowing how true this book is to the actual hardships and difficulties that blacks in Atlanta had faced and the fact that the "n" word was used quite frequently (and I have a very hard time hearing / reading it). Once I got passed this, the writing was quite phenomenal and the story had great purpose. Bu it wasn't totally what I was expecting. With the little letter from the publisher at Atria / 37 INK at the beginning, I was so very eager to dive right into this book that promised to be a huge hit ( I mean, come on, they're making a film or TV show with Jamie Foxx co producing! )but it just didn't hit that high note with me.
Don't get me wrong, this novel is an exemplary work of art, and history and the whodunnit aspect will have the reader up guessing all night. And while most readers will not be able to relate the the characters personally, we can somewhat understand the hardships and perseverance that we all have to go through at some point or another.
Maybe one of these days this will be one of those books I pick up and try again, and maybe I'll appreciate it more than I did the first time around. But don't let my review stop you from enjoying Darktown, just look at the 4.26 star rating on Goodreads, and let that help you sway your decision.