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Darktown: A Novel (The Darktown Series) Paperback – June 6, 2017
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"A brilliant blending of crime, mystery, and American history (Atlanta, just after WWII). Terrific entertainment." (Stephen King)
"One incendiary image ignites the next in this highly combustible procedural, set in the city’s rigidly segregated black neighborhoods during the pre-civil-rights era and written with a ferocious passion that’ll knock the wind out of you." (New York Times Book Review)
"Mullen is a wonderful architect of intersecting plotlines and unexpected answers. But you also want justice, which you know neither Mullen nor our own time can provide...Compelling works of fiction such as Mullen’s walk a fine line between art that reminds us of horrors past and art that trades on them with pieces too unfinished to play with." (Washington Post)
As his previous historical novels have proven, Mullen is skilled at bringing the past to life, both socially and visually… fans of well-written literary thrillers will want this expert example. (Library Journal)
From the very first page of Darktown, I was stunned, mesmerized, and instantly a huge fan of Tom Mullen. Beyond the history and the thrilling mystery, the book’s soul lies in the burgeoning partnership (and dare I say friendship) at the center of the book. It’s a reminder of the ties that cut across race in America. There is nothing I love more in a book than hope. (Attica Locke author of Pleasantville)
Fine Southern storytelling meets hard-boiledcrime in a tale that connects an overlooked chapter of history to our owncontinuing struggles with race today. (Charles Frazier author of Cold Mountain)
Mullen uses the lens of a twisted murder mystery to unsettle readers with his unflinching looks at racism in post-WWII Atlanta… This page-turner reads like the best of James Ellroy. (Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review))
“Mullen succeeds in delivering a narrative heartbreakingly irresistible” (Shelf Awareness, Starred Review)
Mullen’s writing is extremely evocative in bringing the pre–civil rights South to life. (Booklist (Starred Review))
“Gripping…. A complicated crime fiction that melds an intense plot with fully realized characters… Mullen's unflinching description[s] add to the realism and relevance of Darktown.” (Associated Press)
"[An] absorbing new mystery, reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow in a genre mood." (USA Today)
“This a particularly satisfying read.” (Kirkus Reviews 10 Favorite Crime Noves of the Year)
"In the way the story is told coupled with its heightened racial context, “Darktown” reminded me of a Walter Mosley or a George Pelecanos novel." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
“Tenebrous and super-cinematic…and in no small sense reminiscent of 1997’s L.A. Confidential.” (Seattle Review of Books)
"In a year when the literary community has seen some stellar releases examining the issue of race in unique ways – books like Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – Darktown stands beside Revolver by Duane Swierczynski as examples of how crime fiction can elucidate the topic with pinpoint accuracy. This novel should be required reading for both police forces nationwide and the citizens they seek to protect." (BOLO Books)
“Darktown is a compelling well-crafted read, and a reminder of how far we have come as a nation from a time when race defined success and opportunity. Or have we?” (New York Journal of Books)
“This is high-quality historical crime fiction with a nimble sense of history and well-researched details, quick on its feet and vividly drawn.” (Dallas Morning News)
“It is no surprise the much anticipated DARKTOWN is more than just a fictional crime thriller- infused with historical details and timely controversial subjects.” (JDC Must Read Books, 5 Star Review)
“Some books educate, some books entertain, Thomas Mullen’s DARKTOWN is the rare book that does both…a novel that holds up a mirror to the vestiges of discrimination that remain alive and well today.” (Huffington Post)
“Lovers of Harry Bosch, Dave Robicheaux and Easy Rawlins should delight in ‘Darktown’ and its new detective team.” (Bookfilter)
“This is such a moving piece of fictionalized American history...I was completely invested in this story and I highly recommend people pick this up.” (Kissin' Blue Karen)
"Hitting the page like the second coming of Ellroy, Mullen delivers a timely and tense story set in Atlanta in the days immediately following World War II...a throroughly modern, compelling thriller that resonates and crackles with dark energy." (B&N Reads, September's Best New Thrillers)
“An addictive novel…reminiscent of Dennis Lehane novels.” (The Missourian)
“Mullen’s epic novel works both as a fast-paced, hard-boiled thriller with the sweep of L.A. Confidential and as a vivid depiction of systemic police racism and corruption, all the while alive to the complexities and subtleties surrounding class, religion and sex within the black community. In this age of Black Lives Matter, a historical crime novel might well be the most topical book of the season.” (Irish Times)
"Novelist Mullen’s research is impeccable…This novel is highly recommended for those who like a good police procedural and for those interested in the African-American struggle to cross over the thin blue line of policing." (Historical Novel Society)
"Mullen’s attention to historical detail and living, breathing narrative draws readers into an engaging crime story." (Creative Loafing Atlanta)
“At times, the day-to-day experience of blacks and whites living in the Jim Crow south seen through this fictional lens seems like bulletins from a distant past, something long gone and half-forgotten, shocking in its strangeness. At other times it reads like tomorrow's headlines.” (Reviewing the Evidence)
“Darktown is a powerful book. When you’ve read it, it will reverberate in your thoughts continuously.” (Spare Change News)
“The plot has the hallmarks of a classic noir mystery, making the novel an enjoyable read both for mystery fans and for readers who want to get a better sense of life in the segregated south shortly after World War II.” (Tzer Island)
“Darktown is a thrilling, fast-paced crime novel, but the complex questions it raises will haunt readers long after the final page,” (The Toledo Blade)
About the Author
Thomas Mullen is the author of Darktown, an NPR Best Book of the Year, which has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Book Prize, the Indies Choice Book Award, has been nominated for two Crime Writers Assocation Dagger Awards, and is being developed for television by Sony Pictures with executive producer Jamie Foxx; The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA TODAY and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction; The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers; and The Revisionists. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and sons.
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Top customer reviews
The mystery holds few surprises. The police department is more interested in finding someone to accuse of the murder than solving it. The young black cops, Boggs and Smith, pursue it even though they lack the authority to conduct investigations. They are eventually assisted by a young white officer, Rakestraw, who is partnered with a racist cop, Dunlow. Rakestraw is interested in justice, but he is not exactly a crusader for racial equality.
While the mystery is fairly standard, the historical look at Atlanta is a little more interesting. The progress made in even hiring black officers is clouded by political motives and racism that is both deeply entrenched and institutionalized. The actions described in the book are horrific both to read, or in the case of the audiobook, listen to. The story may have been a little more successful with characters that were a little more sympathetic or less stereotypical. Nevertheless, the pressure that was in place both within and outside of the black community on the success of the experiment of hiring black officers kept the stakes high. Even the day to day obstacles both to doing their jobs and living their lives was illuminating.
The mystery is eventually solved, and justice of a sort is dispensed. What was lacking, was any sort of indication of what a path forward might be. A deeply racist south was portrayed, but there was no real sign that there was a way for anything to really change. The hiring of black officers in and of itself was portrayed more as a political expediency than as a step towards progress.
The audiobook was narrated by Andre Holland who did an outstanding job with the characters. Holland made you feel like you were in 1948 Atlanta and effectively conveyed the frustration, anger and weariness of the characters. The pace was steady and the mood tense.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this audiobook.
When they observe a middle-aged white man hit a utility pole, in so-called “darktown,” furthermore with a black girl as a passenger who seems to have been assaulted, all they can do is call in a white team. As happens all too often, they can do nothing when the man is allowed to go free and the female flees from the car. Days later when the girl is found shot dead and hidden in a garbage heap, Boggs and Smith make it their mission find justice for her. The hurdles and dangers that they face as they dig up information while attempting to fly under the radar would deter most anyone. The run afoul of an underground, ex-cop dirty works group. When their quest takes them outside of Atlanta, matters become even more harrowing.
It’s an okay mystery, but it’s even better sociology. There are any number of episodes, some incidental, that the author touches upon that make startling clear the immense difficulty of being black in a racist society. The author is not on soap-box – he doesn’t have to be.
Hopefully, the author's next book will introduce us to characters we feel something for rather than not caring whether the characters improved their lot on life.
a small insight into what Blacks had to endure in the south back then. But... Again, not as good as I expected it would be. :(