Karin Slaughter’s first standalone novel takes us to 1974 Atlanta, a city divided by race, gender, and sexuality. Our guides to the city are newbie cop Kate Murphy, struggling through her first week on the job, and second-year Maggie Lawson, whose familial ties to the force limit her role. But when a serial killer starts targeting cops, and Lawson’s brother Jimmy nearly becomes a victim, these two brave women are drawn into the shadowy corners of Atlanta where bullets are the only commodity that matters.
The “isms” of Atlanta are shocking: whether it’s because of race, gender, religion, sexuality, or number of days on the job, there are more things that keep people apart than hold them together. All of those things seem to hold more sway in the hearts and decisions of the characters we meet than even family lines, marriage, or the thin blue line. Most of all though, thanks to Slaughter’s depiction, we see how tough it is for a woman to break into a police force run by “good old boys,” where even the older women are suspicious of new candidates. No one is looking out for you, but rather, the disparate allegiances are united in trying to make you quit.
Yes, Slaughter’s experience as a crime thriller author shows up here, and the investigation into the Shooter is compelling. We’re lead to believe it might be one, no wait, two, no three, characters, before the big reveal. But the way these two women navigate a chauvinistic system, and the dynamics of family, proved to be what compelled me to read the majority of the book in one sitting. I wanted the two women to succeed, to overcome their grief, their struggle, their pain, and prove that being cops the right way did actually matter.
In one of my favorite conversations, Murphy’s Auschwitz-surviving grandmother (yeah, Slaughter went there) says, “There is no explanation [for why horrible people can be good.] Evil people can do good. Good people can do evil. Why does this happen sometimes? Because it’s Tuesday.” It’s a telling moment about fighting evil in all tis forms, in believing in God in the midst of Auschwitz and segregated, murderous Atlanta, and it defines how two women rise above all of the trash and turmoil to thrive. No one expects them to do much, to matter, and they prove that good people can accomplish much when they work together.
They can overcome.