Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Narrator: Andre Holland

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 11 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 1 Darktown

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Set in post-WWII 1940s Atlanta, the police department has hired it’s first Black police officers. Tensions are high within the Atlanta PD but also across political lines throughout the city. A young Black woman is found dead and few seem willing to follow up on it.

This was an excellent read, drawing together a murder mystery, racial intolerance, the progressive movement to integrate the police department, and the upcoming generation. The author did a great job of portraying the politics of the day while also giving us a gripping mystery. The main characters, Black officer Lucius Boggs and young Denny Rakestraw, show us the various view points about integration throughout the story.

I most fascinated by the Black officers. They have limited authority within the police department. They aren’t allowed to drive the squad cars and the can’t enter the front door of the police station. Yet they have one of the toughest beats as well. There’s an unwritten division with the police department where the Black officers are expected to police Darktown (the area of Atlanta that is primarily populated by Blacks) and the White officers will police the rest of the city. This sets up a dynamic that is rich for missteps, over-reaching, and bigotry.

Meanwhile, Boggs and his partner Tommy Smith fly under the radar (mostly) to investigate the death of the young Black woman Lily Ellsworth. Since she was last seen in a car in the company of a White man, they have to be very careful about how they investigate.

Young Rakestraw is partnered with an older cop, Lionel Dunlow. Now Dunlow is an open and active racist and many of his usual ways of doing business strike Rakestraw as unfair at the best of times and downright criminal at the worst of times. I wanted to root for Rakestraw, hoping he would find a way to push back on Dunlow’s brutal ways. However, pushing back on Dunlow means pushing back on a good chunk of the PD. So Rakestraw has to pick his battles.

The mystery itself was excellent. There’s a twist near the end that neatly tied everything together and once revealed so many little hints clicked into place. I was engrossed in this book and thoroughly pleased with the ending. I greatly hope for more stories about Boggs and Rakestraw. My one quibble is that I would like to see more female characters and not just as murder victims or romantic interests.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Andre Holland did a fantastic job. He was just excellent at the nuanced local accents. He was also great with all the emotions the various characters go through in this book.

What I Liked: The setting; how the racial tensions are handled; learning about the Atlanta PD in the late 1940s; the murder mystery itself; the main characters Boggs and Rakestraw; excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used a few more female characters.

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