Book Review: ‘Cop Town’ Is A Well-Written Crime Thriller

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Review by Ann McDonald

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way: wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies.

The year is 1974 and the Atlanta P.D. is dealing with a cop killer. He is called ‘The Shooter.’ It’s an explosive time for change with minorities being given a voice but the rampant hostility against women in the force has to be experienced to be understood. The story unfolds introducing us to the Lawson family: Maggie, a cop, her brother Jimmy, also a cop, Uncle Terry, another cop and the mother of the house, who has to be the most unpleasant woman on the face of the earth and is constantly putting Maggie down. The proverbial venom coming from her cigarette-laden mouth is awful and you really want Maggie to grow a pair and just walk away.

Kate Murphy is a beautiful Jewish, well-to-do widow, her husband having died in Vietnam. She has a college background and wants to do something with her life and becomes the catalyst in Maggie’s life. We see Jimmy Lawson carrying his partner Don Wesley to the hospital. He has been shot twice in the head and as Jimmy gets him to the hospital foyer, he dies. This is Day One. Kate Murphy is out in the parking lot in a uniform two sizes too large, shoes too big and a hat that won’t stay on her head, along with the memories of the humiliation she went through in the academy, still fresh in her mind.

She is dreading the walk through the morning assembly of men to get to the dressing room but the gauntlet awaits and she presses on and it’s as bad as she knew it was going to be. The department is in an uproar with the lynch mob just wanting to get their hands on whatever guy it was that shot Don Wesley. Kate and Maggie get together and they are determined to find the killer, to follow the evidence and get their man but they cannot tell anyone what they are doing. One scene when Maggie is back-handed by her Uncle Terry makes you flinch and want to shoot the guy yourself. The story is an uncompromising look at the way it was back then.

Kate and Maggie’s journey will take you into lives and homes you really don’t want to go to. The grime, dirt and unrelenting poverty in the projects of Atlanta is not for the faint hearted. The growing kinship and friendship that emerges between the two women is great. Maggie leads and Kate follows and they are one hell of a team and apart from the shooter, there are underlying stories and characters that are well drawn and developed. It’s complicated by by the human condition and the frailties of human nature but they do get their man and some of the bad guys get theirs. This book is not for the easily shocked and does not go well with a cup of tea. Pass the bourbon, no shrinking violets allowed.

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Ann McDonald

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