Cop Town - Karin Slaughter

This is a stand alone police procedural set in 1974 Atlanta. To say it was a different time is an understatement. Although well written & suspenseful, it's not an easy read. Racism is rampant, domestic abuse tacitly accepted & women are just beginning to explore career options other than secretary or housewife. 

The APD is a microcosm reflecting the city's mores & attitudes. Change is coming as evidenced by a new mayor & chief of police (both black) but a lot of the old guard is still around & not happy the department is now accepting black and/or female recruits. The racial & sexual abuse they suffer is shocking & Atlanta leads the country in police mortality.

So maybe it's no surprise when someone starts killing cops. In the last 3 months, 5 have been shot at close range, all white. As the book opens, 5 year veteran Maggie Lawson & newbie Kate Murphy meet for the first time & begin working together. 

They couldn't be more different. Maggie is from a poor, uber- dysfunctional family & serves along side her brother Jimmy & their uncle Terry. Kate is a beautiful young widow from a wealthy Jewish family. Maggie's home life consists of juggling "women's" chores, her mother's bitter disappointment & frequent beatings at the hand of dear old Uncle Terry. Kate's biggest challenges have been attending the proper social functions, using the right fork & accessorizing. 

There is a large cast that includes their family members & colleagues. Almost every male cop is reprehensible. They are portrayed as flask carrying misogynists who believe beating a suspect & planting evidence are part of the job. When Jimmy's partner becomes the latest victim of the cop killer, they go on a rampage in an effort to deliver their own justice to "the Shooter".

But Maggie senses Jimmy isn't telling the whole story & puts together her own posse. Tired of being ridiculed & patronized, the women set aside their differences & start to dig. No one, male or female, black or white, is prepared for what they find.

This is a difficult review to write. Yes, it's a well written, atmospheric thriller redolent of the 70's. The plot is complex with the identity of the killer being just one of the startling surprises in store. There is an unrelenting tension as Maggie, Kate & Co. get closer to the truth(s). Violence is frequent & graphic. These two characters in particular undergo great change & it's interesting to watch them become more & more like the male counterparts they despise in order to survive.

The problem for me was I kept getting yanked out of the story by the racial slurs, crude dialogue & abundance of violence against women. I realize this was meant to reflect the times but I found it so offensive that it made me pause, interrupting the flow of the narrative. Uncle Terry is the worst of the lot, a truly horrible man. By today's standards, if Maggie pulled her gun & shot him, I'd call it justifiable homicide. But ironically that would put her on his level.

So I guess it comes down to personal preference. I'm a big fan of this author, particularly her "Will Trent" series. This is a bleak, darker novel & most of the characters have few if any redeeming qualities. However they are also byproducts of their time, created by the attitudes & values they were taught.

If you're partial to something warm & fuzzy, this is not for you. But it certainly makes you think. Thank God more than just the clothes & hairstyles have gone out of style. While I would call this a good read, I don't know if I can say it was an enjoyable one.