In 1948, the city of Atlanta hires its first African-American police officers. Although uniformed and armed, the eight new officers find they are still targets of bigotry and racism in the post-war “Jim Crow” South.
Lucius Boggs, son of an affluent and influential black preacher, and his partner, Tommy Smith, try to untangle the mystery of a female black murder victim. Their unofficial investigation – there are no black detectives – runs afoul of some powerful white citizens, as well as a group of white ex-cops who work clandestinely with the police on “special jobs.” Simultaneously, avowed racist cop Dunlow and his progressive young partner, Rakestraw, also have an interest in the murder case, although with very different agendas. Rakestraw and Boggs try to keep a lid on the situation, but racial tensions between the black and white officers escalate to a dangerous level, a point at which the black officers fear for their lives.
Novelist Mullen’s research is impeccable, and he brings to light such interesting details as the fact that, although issued firearms, the first black officers were not given squad cars and were relegated to foot patrols in black neighborhoods. This is an exciting and entertaining story, and it brings to light an aspect of the civil rights struggle that is rarely seen in print. As much as it is a fascinating look back, the novel is also timely, as tensions between the police and African-Americans are once again in the news.
This novel is highly recommended for those who like a good police procedural and for those interested in the African-American struggle to cross over the thin blue line of policing.