The sexism and racism in this book are seriously disturbing, but it takes place in the Atlanta Police Department in the 1970s, so they’re unavoidable. Maggie Lawson’s uncle and brother are also cops, but that doesn’t help her standing in the APD much. She does her brother’s laundry and endures patronizing comments and physical violence from her uncle. When her brother’s partner is shot, she knows there’s more to the story, but she’s stonewalled by the sexist cops. She’s mentored by Gail, who’s endured far worse than Maggie has in her tenure as a cop. Maggie in turn will mentor clueless Kate Murphy, a widow just starting as a cop. Women are not welcome in the APD. “The only reason they were in uniform was because the federal government had bribed the city with grants to hire them. The women weren’t exactly told to lie about their duties, but the grants dictated certain guidelines that the Atlanta Police Department was not going to follow–mixed assignments being primary among them”
Besides the rampant sexism, the department is racially segregated. Slaughter has set COP TOWN at the time Maynard Jackson is the first black mayor of Atlanta and “had finally managed to push out the old chief of police. Commissioner Reginald Eaves had taken over around the time of the Edward Spivey trial, which made a bad situation unbelievably worse. Eaves didn’t seem to care. He was on a mission to break the white power structure that had controlled the Atlanta Police Department since its inception.” What inspires racial unity on the force? Women. “As far as Maggie could tell the only thing the black and white male officers could agree on was that none of them thought women should be allowed in uniform.” As a bonus, there’s also rampant homophobia and a big dose of anti-Semitism.
Kate is incredibly naive when she starts work.
‘We’d better hurry before the colored girls get here.’
Kate glanced at the curtain splitting the room in half. She sounded horrified. ‘It’s segregated?’
‘They change back there. They can’t wear their uniforms to work.’
Maggie felt her eyes narrow. She couldn’t tell if this doe-eyed look was an act or not. ‘You ever talk to a black person in Buckhead don’t have to come through the back door?’
To say that Kate and Maggie get off to a rocky start would be an understatement, but as they are shut out of the hunt for a cop-killer, they team up to follow leads the men refuse to acknowledge, risking their jobs and their lives to find a little bit of justice. Slaughter knocks this one out of the park. It’s gritty, well-researched, and realistic. She perfectly evokes a horrifying, ugly, gritty time in Atlanta without flinching once. This is a tough read, but a worthwhile one.
Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.