In the Deep South, fall does not announce itself with a dramatic temperature shift; summertime heat may linger well into autumn, which explains why I got sunburn on my late October wedding day. For me, fall begins with a certain melancholy as teachers and students return to school in short sleeves. Then the acorns start their angry rain on my metal sunroom roof and my husband’s NFL and fantasy football obsession rolls from simmer to boil. Still, I can’t slip quietly into fall without sharing one of my favorite books from this past summer: Cop Town by Karin Slaughter.
It’s Atlanta, 1974, and the city’s first female police officers are receiving a less than warm welcome as they join the force. Newbies like Kate Murphy are issued uniforms and shoes three sizes too big. Even Maggie Lawson, who followed her brother and uncle into the line of duty, is the focus of hazing and harassment from her male counterparts. Still, the department has bigger problems–a serial killer who’s targeting cops.
“Summer is here and murder is back, just the way we like it. Chief among the perpetrators: Karin Slaughter and Amanda Kyle Williams, two Atlanta crime writers with strong female protagonists who make the city and its countryside their beat.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution (June 27, 2014).
Karin Slaughter interviewed a number of Atlanta’s first female police officers when researching Cop Town. She regaled us with some of their stories at a July fundraiser for the Gwinnett County Public Library. Receiving daily threats, which were sometimes accompanied by feces or lewd graffiti on a work locker, these women carried out their duties under incredible circumstances. And that was just at police headquarters. Although Cop Town has been billed as Slaughter’s first standalone thriller, the book is begging for a series with all the rich material she has mined from her research into the integration of the Atlanta Police Department.
I’ve been a fan of Slaughter’s work since reading her Grant County Series. Her books feature authentic law enforcement characters and the crimes depicted usually contain some disturbing seed of truth. Slaughter said at the July reading that her editor once commented that a storyline was too far-fetched. The author replied with a newspaper clipping on which the outrageous storyline had been based. It is this element of truth that simultaneously makes you want to cower under the covers and read more about the courageous first women police officers who endured much to be a part of Cop Town.