Cop TownKarin Slaughter’s first stand-alone novel is a force to be reckoned with. At once a gripping crime novel and astute commentary on American society, it starts off with a bang (literally) and doesn’t let up.

The story concerns a spate of cop killings in Atlanta in 1974 and centers on Kate Murphy, who has just joined the police department. That’s right…Kate. A woman. Joins the cops. In 1974. She’s welcomed about as you’d expect, assuming you were born before this date (and if you weren’t, yes, it really was like that).

Kate and her partner, Maggie Lawson, come from completely different worlds. Kate’s rich. Maggie isn’t. Kate’s life was headed down a different path before it took a tragic turn, whereas Maggie seems to have been destined (by herself, at least) to be a cop, like her brother and uncle before her.

The Atlanta Police Department is understandably on edge because someone is out there killing officers. As with Karin Slaughter’s series books, though, nothing is quite what it seems. I’m not going to give anything away and it’s hard to describe the story completely without doing so, but suffice to say that the “crime” portion of this crime-thriller is really a backdrop for a portrait of American society that is compelling because it illustrates so clearly how things have changed…and how they have not.

I’ve had many interesting conversations with other readers about the violence in Karin Slaughter’s books, and COP TOWN is indeed violent, but I found none of the violent scenes gratuitous or overly graphic. Was the world more violent in 1974? As a whole, almost certainly not. But for a woman cop in Atlanta, violence came in many forms. Yes, this is disturbing, but not in any way that would stop be recommending the book anything but wholeheartedly.

COP TOWN has stayed with me since I finished reading it, and I don’t expect it will leave me any time soon.


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