By: Thomas Mullen
Publication Date: 9/12/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith.
As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others).
“Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties are tested between family and law. Color lines are threatened. Moral lines are blurred.
The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South.
The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. It is infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today.
“Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises.
Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods.
In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith.
From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support.
Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land.
Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist?
They were tiring of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power.
Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow.
Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him.
Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park.
Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the richest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana?
Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them?
Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family.
When a black man, Jeremiah is released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection.
Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again.
Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop?
Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid.
. . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide.
The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. . .
The Armor was worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective.
. . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.”
Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties are tested. Family versus law.
Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort?
After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only (without violence)?
From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat!
The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior.
Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed.
Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely!
Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs.
When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans.
Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care about.
Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series.
In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished.
Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner!
Due to post-Irma, residing in South Florida with water damages, power outage, cell towers, and loss of internet for nine consecutive days; no gas, grocery, or mail service – late posting my review on pub day. Let's hope Maria does not pay us a visit.
Yay! Today we have internet restored, power, cell towers, and mail service! Back in business. Ordered the hardcover copies of both DARKTOWN and LIGHTNING MEN for my personal library. So excited, they are out for delivery today, from Amazon! (Love the covers) Looking forward to receiving my copies. (Now, I have to figure out how to get the author to autograph) my copies.
Busy catching up with posting reviews and my blog. Thanks everyone for your patience.