Cop Town by Karin Slaughter is a very highly recommended, gritty, realistic crime drama that will have you at the edge of your seat, biting your nails, for the entire novel.
Set in Atlanta in 1974, Cop Town follows two women cops over eight days during a heated emotional time in the Atlanta Police Department. Someone is killing police officers, setting into motion the good-old-boy-tough-and-ready police force on a mission to find justice. A cop killer is on the loose and it looks like he’s hit again. The novel opens with cop Jimmy Lawson carrying his partner, who has been shot, to a hospital. Jimmy has survived the execution only because the killer’s gun jammed.
Maggie Lawson is Jimmy’s sister and niece of Terry, a long time detective on the force. None of her relatives want her on the force and try to beat her down every chance they get, but Maggie is still on the force after enduring their verbal and physical abuse. Kate Murphy is a brand new recruit. She lost her husband two years ago in Vietnam and has been searching for purpose and meaning in her life, as well as a steady job, since then. Even though she comes from a privileged background, she wants to try and support herself. She is hiding her background and going to tough it out and make this job work.
The white-male dominated Atlanta police department is full of racial and political tension and misogynists. It’s tough enough for a woman to receive respect from her own family, let alone the white-male dominated police force. With the tension and harassment riding so high, just getting to roll call at work is a test of endurance and nerves. Adding the existence of the Shooter, the name for the killer who is targeting cops, and the raw emotions are ramped up even higher.
Maggie can’t knowingly work on the case with help from any of the good-old-boys, but she and Kate can work the case and figure out what is really going on behind the scenes, with help from her former partner, a tough female cop working vice now. The women are able to piece together clues and follow leads that the men are missing, while at the same time they need to watch out for the guys and what they might do to the women next.
This is a stand alone novel that is not part of an ongoing series, so for those who have never tried a novel by Karin Slaughter Cop Town would be a great place to start. Slaughter excels at setting and describing the time and place in this novel. The setting can be extremely ugly, and brutal. Both the city and the time in history are captured in detail. The 70’s were a time of social upheaval and unrest. While integration was supposed to be taking place, the reality was there were still racial and sexist divides and the existing status quo was in no hurry to allow change to happen.
The characters are extremely well drawn, with all the conflicting emotions and nastiness you might see in people around you every day. These are flawed characters, all of them, and they are depicted realistically but with empathy for the struggles and prejudice that they had to endure at this time.
The exceptional writing sets Cop Town above many other police procedurals and thrillers. This is a must read for the summer.
Review by Lori L (She Treads Softly) on Goodreads
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.