Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Responding from pressure on high, the Atlanta police department is forced to hire its first black officers in 1948. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: They can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even use the police headquarters and must instead operate out of the basement of a gym.

When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death. Their efforts bring them up against an old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood like his own, and Dunlow’s young partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines.


Song For This Book:


I received an advance copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really interesting book to read in light of what’s been going on in the United States lately. Despite being in Canada and from my perspective, things being better here, we do hear a lot about it, and there is an effect on things up north. And there has never been an effect on the television shows, movies, and books we’ve been seeing. Black Lives Matter has been a common theme, and I think, for good reason. It’s what we need right now, in light of some recent events.

This is not a discussion on social attitudes, though. This is about this book by Thomas Mullen. I enjoyed this book, and had a lot of fun reading it, despite some of the heavier topics it involves. Is it the greatest, most original book I’ve ever read? No. It’s pretty straight forward, and there’s nothing particularly surprising about the mystery. But it’s still enjoyable, and there are some great elements to it.

The Good Points of Darktown:

The characters in this book are great. With a book that focuses so much on race, it would be easy to fall into stereotypes and one-sided characters. But Mullen created some great characters that have different sides, good qualities and bad qualities, and none of them have anything to do with the colour of their skin. Even the people I was supposed to dislike in this book, I still enjoyed following them.

The writing in this book is easy to read, without being dumbed down. So many adult books tend to be written to impress, rather than to tell a story. This book is written well enough that it feels like adult fiction, but you get so wrapped up in the story that you forget that you’re actually reading.

I liked the way that the race issue was presented and handled in this book. In these times, it can be a really sensitive issue, and just that alone may get this book some interesting press upon its release. But Mullen presented it in a way that doesn’t make any one race look bad, instead showing that individuals alone choose to be good or bad.

The Downsides of Darktown:

When you read the synopsis for this book, you get the impression it is going to focus predominantly on the murder mystery. However, the race issue takes a bigger precedence in this book. Not necessarily in a bad way, but when I’m promised something in a story, I expect that to be what I get.

There’s nothing particularly unique about the murder mystery, or about the book in general. You may not guess how the murder mystery works out, but it won’t surprise you either. The actions of some of the characters you’ll predict right from the beginning. It’s good, just not that original.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, and I may even read it again, but it was nothing spectacular. Perhaps I’ve just read/watched too many mysteries though, and have gotten good at guessing things. But if you’re looking for a good that handles the issue of race in a really great way, you should definitely check this one out.

Darktown hits the shelves TOMORROW! If it sounds like something you enjoy, you’ll be able to pick up your copy in stores bright and early in the morning. When you’ve read it, come back and let me know what you thought!


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