Darktown is like a rose in the field of police procedurals. It deals with some thorny issues with respect to a vanguard group of African-American cops working in Atlanta in 1948. It’s a period in history where people were still reeling from the Second World War and it was before civil rights existed. This novel is ultimately a complex tale of morality that simultaneously feels like a TV series (especially one dealing with a murder investigation) and a classic story like To Kill A Mockingbird.
Lucius Boggs is the son of a preacher and one of the eight African-American men working in a special police force in Atlanta. He has a partner named Tommy Smith and together they walk and police their own unique beat. They have no squad cars, they do not work out of official police headquarters and they patrol their own native neighbourhood (it’s a different part of town to the one that is inhabited by the affluent white Americans.)
One night Boggs and Smith witness a drunken white man drive into a lamppost and assault his female passenger. These policemen call for help from some white cops. One of the men that turn up proves to be a corrupt and violent racist. The latter lets the perpetrator off the hook without even a slap on the wrist. Boggs and Smith become concerned and angry when they discover what happened that night and when they learn that the drunken criminal was the last person to see a murdered black woman alive.
Thomas Mullen constructs a rich and vivid tale about the ensuing murder investigation. It’s a tangled web where some crooked white cops despise and question the authority of their African-American counterparts. It’s also the scene of racial prejudices, a place where segregation is the norm and where it’s not uncommon for the characters to see race-related hate crimes. Some of these scenes make this book an uncomfortable one to read. But Darktown is also an important story and Mullen should be applauded for tacking this subject matter and for providing such a detailed backdrop for his characters. It’s obvious that this book has been meticulously researched.
Darktown is a gritty and raw murder thriller. It’s a page turner that will engage you and leave you guessing what’s around the next corner. This book is due to be adapted into a TV series starring Jamie Foxx and it should make for powerful viewing. Darktown describes a sad but true chapter in American history and Mullen has tackled some rather complex subject matter with great finesse. This novel is a well-written one that proves there is no black or white with respect to justice, just various shades of grey.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.bookstr.com/book/darktown/9905939/