In the tradition of our most acclaimed suspense writers, the author of The Last Town on Earth delivers a riveting and elegant police procedural set in Atlanta, a ripped-from-the-headlines depiction of a world on the cusp of great change involving race relations, city politics, and police corruption.
Responding to pressure from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers. It's a victory of sorts, though the newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers, and their authority is limited: They can't arrest a suspect unless a white officer is present; they can't drive squad cars; they can't even enter the station through the front door.
When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man with connections to the APD turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Lucius and Boggs, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds, who risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death. When their efforts stall, they have to work alongside fellow officers who include the old-school cop Dunlow and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines.
Set in the postwar, pre-civil rights South, and evoking the socially resonant and morally complex crime novels of Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, and Walter Mosley, Darktown is a vivid, smart, intricately plotted crime saga that explores the issues of race, law enforcement, and the uneven scales of justice.
©2016 Thomas Mullen (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
I love to read books set in interesting places or historical settings. I especially love mysteries and thrillers.
This is a book I highly recommend -- with reservations. It is not an easy listen. This is 1948 Atlanta Police Department where there is an "experiment" to utilize 8 black policemen that can only work in certain areas of Atlanta known as Darktown. The black policemen cannot have patrol cars, cannot arrest white people and must call out white officers whenever suspects are rounded up. As bad as that is, it gets worse with the extreme racism woven throughout the story. Jim Crowe is in full effect and civil rights are in the earliest stage. I don't doubt any of the specifics, and it is so painful and infuriating to know this is our history. What kept me going was the strong plot and writing of Thomas Mullen. The narrator, Andre Holland, was the perfect voice for this story. Holland brought a calming voice when extreme violence and situation were proceeding.
"Darktown" is a clever story that provides powerful history and a good mystery and police procedural. This is a book I would love to see as a movie.
Thomas Mullen has written a masterwork based in the 1940s which rings all too true today. I hope there's more to come about Boggs and Smith's careers in the Police force. Beautifully narrated!
Truly top caliber tightly woven story, with strong and believable characters, as well as a glimpse back to a bit of our shameful racist past. I was sad to reach the end of the book, this is one you can't put down but when u do force yourself to do so, you look forward to picking it up again as soon as possible; you become friends with the main characters and it is easy to see the world through their eyes.
I am a 67 year old psychologist. I have been married for 28 years, with two sons who are 27 and 24. I love listening to the books.
I haven't read the print version, but as with all books that have great narrators, I feel that the loss of the performance would diminish my enjoyment of the book. Mr. Mullen has written a great story about the struggles of black people in the South (although the struggle continues to exist, all over the country). The vestiges of slavery are everywhere. The blurb notes that the new black officers were very clearly second class citizens. The degree of this treatment is so obvious and so cold that the few men willing to take on these stigmas can be seen as heroes. However, in fact they must make horrible compromises just in order to keep their jobs, and be grudgingly accepted by the mostly seriously bigoted older white cops. It's not just that they cannot arrest anyone without a white officer present, or that their "office" is in the concrete block basement room of the local YMCA. It is also a fact that they are often endangered by the white cops more than any other faction of the society which they serve and protect.
Absolutely yes. The plot is driven by several events and social tendencies: first is the murder of a lovely, light-skinned black woman who seems like she doesn't at all belong in the whorehouse where she briefly lives. Other plot aspects also push the story forward, as do the many murders (there may be too much gore for some readers) and also the desires of many Atlanta residents to make sure that they stay cleanly on the "right" side of the class/color divide. There are a few clear heroes, and we root strongly for them to survive. There are numerous anti-heroes, who might as well be wearing the flag of the south and mouthing "The South will rise again." This slogan was still very much alive when I went to Vanderbilt in 1966-68. MLK and Robert Kennedy were assassinated in 1968, and, as I have remarked before, there were Army tanks rolling down West End Avenue, which bordered the Vanderbilt campus, in the days after those crimes. A number of my dorm-mates had the rebel flag hanging on their walls. Much of this book is frighteningly real.
Andre Holland has mastered the nuance of individual Southern accents as well as the variety of human emotional speech. I trusted his voice immediately, and never did question that trust. In particular, the "Southern hospitality" which is often just a thin veneer of hostility and condescension: this is a tough variety of speech to capture, and he does it beautifully. He is fully up to the complex task of communicating the mix of human feelings in the stories here. I will definitely look for other books that he has narrated.
There are a number of these, and it would be hard to single out any one of them.
As above, there may well be readers who are not up for the violence. However, if you can look past that, this is a wonderfully written and narrated book. Those who are interested in the struggle of the black man, woman and child in this country will find themselves with a new understanding of how deep this conflict goes. My hat is off to Mr. Mullen and Mr. Holland: they have taught me many valuable lessons on a topic with which I had felt myself to be reasonably educated. Bravo.
If ur from Atlanta or know a bit about the city, you'll really like this book!! I believe it to be very close to the truth of how tough it was to be Black police officer in Atlanta during this time.
I loved the history in terms of the city of Atlanta as well as the racial history and profile given of the original black policeman in Atlanta. In the setting presented around the murder of Lilly, the descriptions of those circumstances were heart felt. I live in Atlanta and have learned that the police force here is currently 85% black. Also now the YMCA is a major police office.
I'm fascinated by the poast-WWII period. I'm fascinated by civil rights, particularly in the southern USA. Put these together, and I HAD to read Thomas Mullen's Darktown.
Other reviewers were underwhelmed by the mystery itself, and I'm inclined to agree. But the backdrop of racial tension - where black officers are hired onto the police force and given almost no real authority - carried this book through in dramatic fashion.
I loved this narrator for the most part, even though his dialogue was flat and almost unchanging. I had a hard time differentiating his characters, but his voice was perfect in describing a sticky, hot summer.
Well worth your time and credit.
I walked in the early morning hours, and at night, while listening to this book. It was always pre-dawn or after dark, and it gave me a feeling of solidarity with the police officers, and a tangible sense of "walking the beat" and being drawn into the story. So yes, I'd recommend more than print.
The death of antagonist.
The death of the antagonist.
Yes, it was one where you wonder about the characters while you're not reading or what you would do if you were them.
I say "surgically" written because so many authors expend my reading energies demonstrating that they have some mastery of the period in which they're writing or want to repeat-dive into some memory of the characters that has no real relevance to the story. These other authors meander, tiringly-so, through all sorts of sidebar storylines and recollections. This author told a story, directly and without wasting a single word. It was so very well written.
Not quite a murder mystery, not quite historical fiction, but some deeply satisfying place in the middle. The narration by André Holland STEALS the show. Perfect choice.
Darktown visually took me back in time. It's very creative how the author wove a time in U.S. History into a graphic illustration of the difficult times officers of color had at that time trying to be part of the Atlanta police force when there own officers couldn't get past color. A must read!
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