The drama, nail-biting suspense, and the incredible cast of characters of Karin Slaughter’s Cop Town made me forget all about my plans for the day and kept me glued to the arm-chair until I read the last words of this page-turning thriller.
Cop Town is set in 1970s Atlanta. A serial cop killer, the Shooter, shakes the APD. Four officers were shot, execution style, and now another one is down. In the opening scene, Jimmy Lawson, a former high school football star and now a savvy police officer, carries his partner, gunned down by the Shooter, to the hospital. And the hunt for the criminal escalates.
Karin Slaughter masterfully depicts various worlds of the same city: the slums, the upscale neighborhood, and the police department. The powerful message, voiced by one of the characters, is this: “For every person, Atlanta is a different thing. Yet they all take pride in ownership. They all feel that the city belongs to them, and that their idea of the city is what the city should be. They feel the need to defend it.” 270
Ironically, yes. They all—the poor in the ghettoes, the rich in the upscale neighborhoods, and the cops—have a sense of entitlement to their town and they have attitude.
So what was this cop town like in 1970s?
In 1970s Atlanta, not too many women served on the police force, and those few who did were not treated with respect—either by the general population or by their male colleagues (the subject explored by Slaughter in her novel Criminal). But the female officers in Cop Town are so smart, competent, strong-willed, and determined to succeed in fighting crime that they choose to endure discrimination, misogyny, and blatant sexual harassment rather than quit the job they love. (It beats me, but…there you have it.)
Kate Murphy, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, has had it all: a privileged family, privileged schools, a privileged social circle, a privileged neighborhood—privileged everything. But now at 25, she’s a widow and she wants something different in her life. After trying various occupations, she chooses police work. Well, she’s got a different life, all right. On her very first day on the job, she patrols the streets of the ghetto, chases after prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, murderers, and gets ridiculed and scorned by her fellow officers. So what can be more different from her previous sheltered life than all that? Will she quit after one day, as her co-workers expect, or will she surprise them by showing up the next day? Kate ponders this dilemma very seriously. And decides to show up. But her second day is worse than the first, and the third one is even worse. Will she have enough guts to stay on the job, or will she withdraw back into her insulated world?
Maggie Lawson, Kate’s partner, comes from a cop family. But that fact doesn’t make her family proud as you might expect. No encouragement or praise of her dedication and competence from them. No, ma’am! They all—her mother, her brother, her uncle—want her to quit. But the blood running in Maggie’s veins is made of “liquid steel,” so she’s not giving up this job, despite the humiliation she has to endure from her male peers and, mostly, from her uncle the brute.
The characters are so well-drawn, so interesting, and so memorable, I hope that Karin Slaughter will not abandon them but let us meet them again in a sequel to Cop Town. In fact, I hope she’s hard at work on it right now. 🙂