A Solid Mystery Set in the Pre-Civil Rights South
Set in 1948 Atlanta, Darktown is the story of two of that
city’s first black police officers (Boggs and Smith) who investigate the death
of a young black woman when no else seemed to care. In the process, they run afoul of Dunlow, a
brutal, racist white officer, while Rakestraw, Dunlow’s young partner, seems
caught in the middle in this confrontation.
Darktown’s depiction of the life of blacks at this
time and place is, simply put, gut-wrenching.
White officers are free to abuse the law, and the excesses that are
portrayed are difficult to read. But it
is, in my opinion, worth the emotional effort.
Layered on top of this taut look at race and the law is a murder
mystery. While the core of the mystery
seemed a bit predictable, Mullen added enough twists in the details to make it
a worthy addition to the historical setting.
The pacing was
good, although I have to admit to some difficulty getting started. Early on, the book seemed to be disconnected
anecdotes and loosely related asides.
But soon the threads came together and the tension ramped up
considerably. The final dozen or so
chapters are particularly action-filled and tension-producing, with one
exception. Mullen added one scene that
seems to mislead the reader, and it felt somewhat cheap in the midst of an
excellent finish. But otherwise, it was
a fully, white-knuckle finale.
Overall, I'd suggest readers prepare themselves for some emotionally difficult reading and then, by all means, make the effort. It's an excellent book.