Author: Thomas Mullen, Atria Books, 2016
Review by: Ambassador Charles Shapiro, president, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
I love detective mysteries. And I love Atlanta. Thomas Mullen’s Darktown is a detective novel set in Atlanta. What’s not to like?
Here’s some background: In 1948 Atlanta Police Chief Herbert Jenkins was instructed by Mayor William Hartsfield to hire eight African American policemen. These eight black cops were policemen but they weren’t. Uniforms but no authority. They were policemen but they couldn’t enter police headquarters. Restricted to black neighborhoods, they had no power to arrest whites no matter what the location, and police corruption hinders their ability to fight crime in their own neighborhood.
It is against this repugnant historical backdrop that Thomas Mullen sets Darktown. A black woman turns up dead. White police refuse to undertake a real investigation and the two black officers who last saw her alive investigate — without authorization. The racism within the police force is palpable. A day-off trip to the murdered woman’s rural home forces the reader to confront the racism that was even worse in the countryside than in Atlanta.
No spoilers here. The good news is that Mullen has written a second novel with the same protagonists that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
And stand by: The World Affairs Council of Atlanta hopes to arrange a program with Thomas Mullen in the coming months. Read Darktown. Read the sequel. And come to the World Affairs Council to meet Thomas Mullen.