Friday, February 10, 2017

Book Review: DARKTOWN, by Thomas Mullen

Thomas Mullen
37 Ink, 2016
371 pages
Crime / Police Procedural

Picked up a copy of DARKTOWN on a whim. Reviews looked good. Synopsis sounded good. Figured I'd give it a shot. Man. This book was outstanding. I want to put this at the front of the review. Not the end. I don't want people to miss out on an amazing read.

DARKTOWN takes place Atlanta, Georgia, pre-civil rights, Jim Crow Laws in effect. The Democrats are still bitter, and vengeful over slaves being freed. However, some progress has been made. A recent change had been made, and eight (8) black men were graduated onto the Atlanta Police Force. The new officers
wear badges, carry guns . . . but their reach is very limited.

The black officers are not allowed in the Atlanta precinct. Instead they rent a basement room at the YMCA. The new officers are not allowed to drive patrol cars. They have to walk their beat. They are not allowed to arrest white people. The new officers are only allowed to patrol black neighborhoods, otherwise known as Darktown. The APD have a running bet. Who will kill one of the new officers first. To say tension between the ranks is impossibly high, is an understatement.

When Officer Lucious Boggs and his partner, Officer Tommy Smith, witness a car do a U-turn, and strike a light pole while patrolling on the night shift, they approach the vehicle. They then witness the drive punch a female passenger.

When the female escapes the car and runs off into the night, the officers pursue the driver. Problem is, the driver is white, and the passenger is black female. The male is intoxicated. They can smell the alcohol on his breath. Unfortunately, there is little they can do other than issue a citation for hitting the pole, and the driver knows it. Forced to call in white officers to take over the scene, both Boggs and Smith feel small, and unimportant.

White Officers Dunlow, and Rakestraw respond. Dunlow, who is a violent, and mean racist, is irate that the force let black people in as officers. Dunlow's goal is nothing shy of constant harassment, whether it be directed at the black officers, or those in Darktown in general.

When the body of a black female is discovered, some days later, it becomes immediately evident that no one is taking the murder serious. Determined not to let discrimination rule, Boggs and Smith risk their careers and begin probing for clues, and answers.

Their search for the truth takes them down a dangerous road. When everyone is against them, the two officers stand alone knowing full well that an entire black community, maybe even all black people everywhere, are watching them, depending on them to make a difference. In doing so, however, they put more than jobs on the line. Their very freedom, their very lives, are at stake!

It might only be February, but DARKTOWN is quite possibly going to win my Favorite Book of 2017. Going to be hard pressed to find another novel as engaging, as enraging, or as engrossing! Mullen has a way of laying out the setting so that the reader feels propelled back in time. His characters are vividly drawn, and the story is compelling with plenty of unexpected twists and a satisfying, if disheartening ending. This book, when I finished it, just made me sit back and say, "Wow."

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Book Review: SACRED, by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane
William Morrow, 1997
320 pages
Crime / Private Detective

Back years ago I read MYSTIC RIVER and SHUTTER ISLAND. Loved them. Recently, I decided to read all of Lehane's novels. I will say this, I am absolutely enjoying myself.

SACRED is the third book in the Kenzie & Gennaro series. (Perhaps the most famous is the 4th, GONE, BABY GONE). In this thriller, Kenzie and Gennaro are kidnapped. Stuffed into a trunk. And delivered to their next potential client.

A dying billionaire wants his daughter found. She is depressed, alone, and he is worried about her. To make the case more complicated, the last private eye sent to do the job, Jay Becker, is now missing as well. Worse still, Becker was Patrick Kenzie's mentor.

After being paid an extraordianry amount of money, Kenzie and Gennaro agree to take on the job. Their efforts land them in Florida. Re-tracing the woman's last known whereabouts takes them directly into harm's way.

Nothing is as it seems. Up is down. Front is back. Right is left. The clues uncovered only make the waters more muddied, and it isn't long before Kenzie and Gennaro find themselves in deep, broke, and their very lives hanging in the balance!

A fantastic edition. A fast read. And SACRED only makes me want more! The chemistry between Kenzie and Gennaro is tense, the banter hysterical, and the dynamics dynamite. I cannot wait to read GONE, BABY GONE next!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Review: Knots & Crosses, by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin
Doubleday, 1987
182 pages
Crime / Detective

Recently discovering Ian Rankin, thanks to a book group I belong to on Facebook (Crime Book Club), I decided to give the author a try. Where to start, since he has so many novels out? Why, at the beginning naturally!

KNOTS & CROSSES is a quick read, and introduces us to Inspector Rebus, the first in a long running series of novels. There is a serial killer on the loose. Young girls are abducted. Days later, bodies found.  Rebus and Inspector Jack Morton are added to the task force. The task they are assigned is menial.   However, not insignificant. In a manhunt of this size, and nature, no investigative work done is useless.

Additionally, the last few weeks Rebus has received odd letters at home. The letter in side usually contains a single sentence, or two. Obscure, and for the most part, meaningless. Along with the letter, however, is a
piece of rope tied off into a knot, or a matchstick turned into a cross. Annoying, but relatively harmless, and with everything else on Rebus' plate, the investigator has little time to fret over such . . . randomness.

When the task force gets closer to the killer, the hunt becomes more intense, and for Rebus, personal. When his daughter Samantha is kidnapped, Rebus is forced to remember his past. Time is running out. If he can't unlock the mystery behind identifying the serial killer, his daughter will be murdered.

With an amazing cast of characters, and even a new love interest with the press liaison from the task force, we get a personal, and raw look into Rebus' world. A former military man, once with the Parachute Regiment with the Special Air Service (SAS), Rebus is also divorced, and not handling the separation from his family very well. The background on his father, and brother, Michael (both stage hypnotists by trade), seemed so ludicrous a concept that it ended up feeling authentic and believable, and fit perfectly within the tale.

At the time I bought KNOTS & CROSSES I also picked up another seven (7) Rankin novels. I cannot wait to read them, and as always, I cannot wait to share my reviews with all of you!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy