It is amazing how society has transformed since the early 1970s. Or has it?
This novel features several members of the Atlanta, Georgia Police Department – The “Cop Town” of the title. In 1974 it was a department comprised of sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic ‘old boys’ who blatantly expressed their views with no attempt of being politically correct. Many of these ‘old boys’ were WWII and Vietnam veterans who had little tolerance for their newly elected African American mayor, diversity-based hiring, or their pet peeve… female police officers.
First we meet the Lawson family. Terry, the uncle, is one of the old boys of which I speak. His nephew Jimmy – a potential football star who sustained a debilitating knee injury – is now also one of Atlanta’s boys in blue. As is his sister, Maggie. Terry treats Maggie with contempt and abuse. As Maggie and Jimmy’s father is in and out of mental hospitals, Terry has taken on the role of family patriarch. He makes no secret of the fact that he strongly disapproves of Maggie’s career choice.
Next we meet rookie policewoman Kate Murphy. The novel begins on Kate’s first day on the job. In fact the entire novel takes place on Kate’s first eight days on the job. Very bad timing on Kate’s part as the entire Atlanta Police Department is reeling from a spate of cop killings. Kate is a Vietnam war widow of upper class Jewish descent. Beautiful to look and from a line of very strong women. Both Kate’s mother and grandmother were Auschwitz survivors. However… nothing she could have imagined has prepared her for the job of policewoman. The male officers are rude, condescending and openly sexist. The female officers taunt her and expect her to quit her first day. And the city streets in all their squalid, odorous, and crime-ridden glory introduce Kate to an Atlanta she never knew existed.
I’ll admit that the first few chapters of the novel were hard going. However, once I really got into the book and grew invested in the characters, I read the novel voraciously. Characterization and setting were equally strong and equally important to the plot. The case of the cop killings was intriguing and well portrayed. It read like an episode of Hill Street Blues or Policewoman.
Karin Slaughter is a resident of Atlanta so she is expert at describing her hometown. Relentlessly paced, this is a police procedural which speaks to social unrest and the psychologically damaged. Cop Town is a work of gritty noir for anyone who enjoys a suspenseful, character-driven thriller.
Thanks once again to NetGalley for providing me with this title.