Monday, August 29, 2016

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

*Darktown will be releases on Tuesday, September 13th!*

Darktown by Thomas Mullen. Atria Books, 2016. Paperback ARC. 384 pages.

**I received a printed ARC of Darktown courtesy of  Atria Books in exchange for an honest review**

Darktown is set in Atlanta, Georgia in 1948. The police department has hired eight black cops to police 'Darktown,' and although they do act as the authority there, they have no real power to make arrests, nor are they even allowed to drive squad cars or work out of the main police headquarters. If they need to arrest someone, they have to call for backup from their white fellow officers, most of whom do not care to help them out. As soon as I received Darktown in the mail, I was intrigued by how intense it sounded and also curious to see how Mullen would handle this topic. This book was not only a stark, informative look at the treatment of blacks, but also provided a note of relevancy to some issues facing us today.

Our main characters are Boggs and Smith, who attempt to witness a black woman, Lily Ellsworth, being physically abused by a white man; this woman eventually turns up dead, but the white man is not charged. In response to this outrage, Boggs and Smith decide to perform their own investigation, which they must do somewhat quietly and without any direct police help.

We also have the white cop duo of Dunslow and Rake. Dunslow is your stereotypical racist pig, complete with an unattractive body and a downright disgusting attitude. This was actually one area that sort of disappointed me about the story. Why did the main racist antagonist have to be so stereotypical? I feel like a much bigger effect could have been made if Mullen had made this rather despicable man have a somewhat more attractive or intriguing in his demeanor, mainly because not every racist man is going to be like this, and I think it's important for us to realize that racism is alive and present in any number of people. 

The second cop, Rake, becomes a much more redeemable character as we see him interact with Boogs and Smith. In the begining of the book, we become aware that Rake doesn't really approve of how Dunslow treats black people, and he even halfheartedly attempts to get him to stop beating a black man, but he doesn't really do anything. Fortunately, he finds a bit of courage throughout the story to try to do what is right, though he is by no means a perfect character. 

Darktown is much more focused on the racial aspect of the setting and plot than the crime itself, so if you are looking for a pure crime mystery, this isn't quite it. In fact, I think it's much more interesting because of the topic and questions it tackles, and I definitely would recommend this book because of that. The only somewhat disappointing aspect of this was that the focus on racism dominated so much that it almost reached a point in which I felt the characters were overshadowed. Now, I understand that racism itself is indeed a huge issue that dominates so many aspects of life today, but I had hoped to try to see more out of the eyes of some of the characters than I did. I felt like I knew most of the characters, but there was just some aspect that felt like I was kept at an arm's length, which made it somewhat difficult to become fully invested in the story at times. 

Overall, I am giving Darktown four stars for superb handling of an intense and highly relevant topic. 

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