Author: Karin Slaughter
Headline RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Karin Slaughter’s latest novel, Cop Town, is marked by a brilliant sense of time and place, digging deep into resentments against minority groups (and vice versa) and dragging the issues kicking and screaming into the forefront. The standalone novel is set in Atlanta, 1974, and it’s certainly not reeking with warm Southern charm. Declining population, urban decay were among the contributors to high crime rates at the time and it is against this uneasy background that Cop Town takes place.
When yet another police officer is brutally slain in Atlanta, it’s all hands on deck for the Atlanta Police Department. For Kate Murphy, her first day on the force is more than an eye-opener. More like merciless. She is thrown into the investigation with little help from the other cops, even her fellow female cops. Only Maggie Lawson, who followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth, seems prepared to give Kate a break … and even then, there are limits to how far she’ll bend to help a newbie. When the two are sidelined in the search to find the killer, they decide enough’s enough, channeling all their pent-up frustration, pride and pain into their own investigation.
Cop Town is an angry book. It’s intense and it feels very personal, like Slaughter is letting out a lot of long-buried frustration about society as a whole; the book reads like a shout-out for women and minority groups, including homosexuals, Jewish, and African-American. It’s almost like she’s screaming, “Why can’t we all just get along and get on with it?” Race against race, women against women, sexuality against sexuality, religion against religion – all come under scrutiny in Cop Town. Much of the focus is on the male-dominated police force and the ways in which female police officers were treated; they were groped, ogled, humiliated, bullied, harassed, given too-large uniforms, and more. The African-American police officers didn’t come off much better, and interestingly, segregation continued, with females not even using the change rooms at the same times. As a female reader, it pushed my buttons in a number of ways. Would this response be the same, I wonder, from male readers? Would they read the book differently? I suspect so. I will add, that the way the women treated each other wasn’t much better.
The emphasis on setting up the troubled change-resistant atmosphere helped distract from the trail leading toward the killer. I was completely caught up in setting that the twist caught me by surprise. Overall, good writing, an emotionally-charged setting and some characters I’d like to read more about.
Available from good bookstores and Random House. My copy was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley.
Bookish treat: If I was a Southern-and-Coke drinker, I might want one after this. Instead, I just went for a cuppa tea.