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19 April 2014

Karin Slaughter: Cop Town

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Powerful and emotional story of a lost era
This is undoubtedly one of the best thrillers I will read this year. In "Cop Town" Karin Slaughter steps out with a stunning, powerful, gritty, emotional and very different stand-alone novel set in Atlanta in 1974, then one of the most violent cities in America. While the story is stunning so is Slaughter's character building, especially with Kate Murphy, a rookie female cop from a privileged background facing the macho dominated Atlanta PD of the time.

In 1974 Atlanta is a city at the start of a dramatic change in its culture with the election of African Americans to be Mayor and Chief of Police. The police force is still predominantly white males fighting to preserve their power in a rapidly changing environment. They are chauvinists, racist, macho, bigoted and many are Vietnam vets. Most of them have little time for rookies, especially females.

Kate is a beautiful young white woman still recovering from the death of her husband in Vietnam. Despite her wealthy background she is determined to make her way on her own and chooses to do this in the world of the police force. On her first day she has to run a gauntlet of groping of male cops who have little mercy for a rookie, especially a female. She meets another somewhat unsympathetic white female cop, Maggie Lawson, from a less privileged background who joined her uncle and brother into the force to show that she was as good as they were.

The force is facing a deadly challenge by a serial killer who is targeting cops, and the partner of Maggie's brother Jimmy had been killed the previous day. On her first day Kate is partnered with Jimmy as the force goes out on a city-wide search for the killer, with some prepared to take the law into their hands to avenge their own. Kate also joins Maggie and Gail, an undercover cop posing as a hooker, chasing clues to the killer to round up some traumatic first days on the job.

Kate meets people and goes to places she would never encounter before and is seriously is tested. She tells her family that Gail is one one of the most awful people but she's also one of the nicest people she had ever met in her life. Her father (a psychiatrist) tells her "Evil people can do good, and good people can do evil".

There follows an exciting chase through the worst parts of Atlanta to find the killer, but the killer always seems to be ahead of them. This is a fast paced and often emotional novel about people pushed to the limit by a madman and a young woman struggling to keep up with what is happening. In parts it is not for the faint hearted but in others it is really emotionally warming.

Karin Slaughter has made this a very different type of thriller by setting it in a dangerous era.  She is totally at the top of her game with this new standalone thriller, laced with atmospheric and gritty descriptions, great action, and above all a set of unforgettable characters. While Karin Slaughter has written other outstanding thrillers this one could outshine all of them. Highly recommended.

My thanks to The Reading Room and the publisher for providing an advanced reading copy of this book for review.

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