LIGHTNING MEN picks up where DARKTOWN left off, and author Thomas Mullen doesn’t miss a beat! The story unfolds in 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. Only, in LIGHTNING MEN, black people have begun moving into white neighborhoods.
White Officer Denny Rakestraw, and black officers Lucius Boggs, and Tommy Smith are once again the thick of things. The klan attack a white man in a nearby county. The attempted murder seems unfounded, and unprovoked. The Klan is hot about the uncommissioned deed, and looking for answers. Boggs is about to get married to Julie, despite family protests. However when her past comes waltzing into town, things once thought buried are unearthed and Boggs is nothing if not at the very least preoccupied with how to move forward. Smith’s family is in a pickle. The idea of law, right and wrong, are now grey boundaries. Black and white has become obscured! Officer Rakestraw is not without issues at home impacting his judgment. Once again, family. He resides in one of the areas where black families are moving in. While he is not racist, his wife is. And she wants to sell the house before the property value bottoms-out.
LIGHTNING MEN is filled with backroom deals, and realty scams. The KKK is a driving force, but not the only evil in town. Dealers of moonshine and weed are at ends, fighting over territories. Darktown is a prime location for sales and everyone wants a piece of that pie! Bad cops taking bribes, good cops looking the other way . . . LIGHTNING MEN is nothing but constant tension. It leaves a knot in your gut the entire time you are reading, and fills you with anger even after you’ve finished the book. (I highly, highly recommend reading DARKTOWN first, but LIGHTNING MEN stands fine on its own. It is a complete tale. You just might get more from it having started the saga from the beginning).
Thomas Mullen is an impressive writer. Although these are the only two books I have read by him, I will be adding his other titles to my ever-growing library. This is a crime writer worth keeping an eye on. His “historical” slant transports readers into the 1950s with ease, and then once there, stomps on preconceived perceptions of what is often referred to as the Golden Age . . .
Author of Assassin’s Promise
and Sounds of SIlence