Book Review: DARKTOWN, by Thomas Mullen

Thomas Mullen
DARKTOWN
37 Ink, 2016
371 pages
Crime / Police Procedural

Picked up a copy of DARKTOWN on a whim. Reviews looked good. Synopsis sounded good. Figured I’d give it a shot. Man. This book was outstanding. I want to put this at the front of the review. Not the end. I don’t want people to miss out on an amazing read.

DARKTOWN takes place Atlanta, Georgia, pre-civil rights, Jim Crow Laws in effect. The Democrats are still bitter, and vengeful over slaves being freed. However, some progress has been made. A recent change had been made, and eight (8) black men were graduated onto the Atlanta Police Force. The new officers

wear badges, carry guns . . . but their reach is very limited.

The black officers are not allowed in the Atlanta precinct. Instead they rent a basement room at the YMCA. The new officers are not allowed to drive patrol cars. They have to walk their beat. They are not allowed to arrest white people. The new officers are only allowed to patrol black neighborhoods, otherwise known as Darktown. The APD have a running bet. Who will kill one of the new officers first. To say tension between the ranks is impossibly high, is an understatement.

When Officer Lucious Boggs and his partner, Officer Tommy Smith, witness a car do a U-turn, and strike a light pole while patrolling on the night shift, they approach the vehicle. They then witness the drive punch a female passenger.

When the female escapes the car and runs off into the night, the officers pursue the driver. Problem is, the driver is white, and the passenger is black female. The male is intoxicated. They can smell the alcohol on his breath. Unfortunately, there is little they can do other than issue a citation for hitting the pole, and the driver knows it. Forced to call in white officers to take over the scene, both Boggs and Smith feel small, and unimportant.

White Officers Dunlow, and Rakestraw respond. Dunlow, who is a violent, and mean racist, is irate that the force let black people in as officers. Dunlow’s goal is nothing shy of constant harassment, whether it be directed at the black officers, or those in Darktown in general.

When the body of a black female is discovered, some days later, it becomes immediately evident that no one is taking the murder serious. Determined not to let discrimination rule, Boggs and Smith risk their careers and begin probing for clues, and answers.

Their search for the truth takes them down a dangerous road. When everyone is against them, the two officers stand alone knowing full well that an entire black community, maybe even all black people everywhere, are watching them, depending on them to make a difference. In doing so, however, they put more than jobs on the line. Their very freedom, their very lives, are at stake!

It might only be February, but DARKTOWN is quite possibly going to win my Favorite Book of 2017. Going to be hard pressed to find another novel as engaging, as enraging, or as engrossing! Mullen has a way of laying out the setting so that the reader feels propelled back in time. His characters are vividly drawn, and the story is compelling with plenty of unexpected twists and a satisfying, if disheartening ending. This book, when I finished it, just made me sit back and say, “Wow.”

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

About the author

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