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Review: Karin Slaughter's 'Cop Town' has action-packed plot, believable characters

This cover image released by Delacorte Press shows

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This cover image released by Delacorte Press shows "Cop Town," by Karin Slaughter. (AP Photo/Delacorte Press)

"Cop Town" (Delacorte Press), by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter wraps an intense thriller around a legacy of sexism, race relations and politics in the engrossing "Cop Town."

Slaughter, author of the Will Trent bestsellers, keeps her first stand-alone novel from becoming a history lesson by investing it with a gritty, action-packed plot and strong, believable characters.

"Cop Town" opens in 1974, when the appointment of a new public safety commissioner in Atlanta — the first black man to hold such a position — promised that change is coming. But in the police department's rank and file, the good ol' boy attitude thrived. New female recruits were verbally harassed, obscene drawings were placed on the door of their small changing room, and they were ignored during investigations.

Over the years on the job, police officer Maggie Lawson had become emotionally hardened. Her family threatens to make her quit, even though her brother Jimmy and domineering uncle Terry are on the force. Maggie is then paired with new recruit Kate Murphy, a recent widow from an affluent family. Kate's arrival coincides with a murder spree by "The Shooter," who has already killed several police officers. Jimmy's partner was murdered in the latest shooting.

Maggie and Kate begin their own investigation into the case, uncovering clues and evidence that the tight network of male cops refuses to acknowledge.

Slaughter's meticulous research of the era infuses "Cop Town" with details that illustrate the tension among the officers who resent that their ranks now include women. It's only when Maggie and Kate work together that they discover their skill in crime detection and their power to change the police force — and their own lives. The author's evocative look at Atlanta during a watershed decade for the city adds to the plot.



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