Okay, I know this is obvious, but Karin Slaughter has the perfect name for a crime fiction writer. Seriously, what else could someone with that surname do for a living? Would you leave your first born with a kindergarten teacher named Ms Slaughter? Or how about depositing your favourite grandmother in a nursing home under Nurse Slaughter’s care? No, anyone named Karin Slaughter either had to be a butcher or a crime writer.
Thank goodness Karin Slaughter didn’t become a butcher, because she is a terrific crime writer. I haven’t read any of her other works before reading Cop Town, but I am itching to read more.
Cop Town is set in Atlanta in the 1970s. The only other book I have read that was set in Atlanta was Gone With the Wind, but this is a very different Atlanta to the gallant, elegant city I remember depicted in the movie, (before the joint was burned by Sherman’s army. If I have this wrong, forgive me, I read GWTW over thirty years ago, and I am Australian, so this is not my history).
As for Cop Town, Atlanta in the 1970s was no place for female police officers, yet the main character, Kate Murphy has joined the force. A killer has been murdering police officers during the months before Kate’s first day at work, and hysteria is rampant throughout the squad room after another police officer is shot. Despite these circumstances, Kate is manhandled, subjected to sexist comments and verbal abuse just making her way through the staff only part of the police station to the female change rooms on her first morning at work. Kate is completely aware that her lack of experience makes her a danger to both herself and to other officers.
On her first day, Kate is initially partnered with Jimmy Lawson, whose former partner was killed the previous day by the murderer. By lunchtime, Jimmy has fobbed Kate off to his sister Maggie, who is also a police officer.
Maggie has her own difficulties. Her brother Jimmy was a sporting hero and became a favourite of the whole police force, while Maggie has constantly suffered the same sort of sexual abuse and harassment as Kate did on her first day at work. Maggie and Jimmy’s uncle, Terry, is a highly ranked police officer who believes Maggie’s place is at home with her mother, who is not supportive of Maggie’s career either. Terry often physically and emotionally harms Maggie.
The way Maggie, Kate and the other women in this novel were treated by their families and male counterparts had me burning with indignation. The men in this novel were afraid of change and afraid of women taking responsibilities. Racism was rampant. There were four different groups in the police force, white male police officers, black male police officers, white female police officers and black female police officers, and none of them had much support from each other.
I didn’t figure out who the killer was until the author told me in the last, exciting pages of Cop Town.