by Karin Slaughter (Century, RRP $37):
Set during the 1970s, this book came across as trying to be as much of a history lesson as it was a murder mystery, telling the story of the women who carved out their place in the police force of Atlanta.
The story starts off with a hiss and a roar, with cop Jimmy Lawson desperately running to the nearest hospital, a fallen brother slung over his shoulder, in a frantic race to get his friend and colleague to the emergency room before he dies from the gunshot wounds that have pierced his body.
Those first few pages are riveting, and the author shows her descriptive skill, making the reader feel every muscle-stretching ache in young officer Lawson’s body, every bone-crunching footfall, as he frantically tries to get to the hospital in time.
Jimmy is from a family of cops, including his Uncle Terry and his sister Maggie. The shooting of Jimmy’s partner sets in motion a chain of events that endanger the lives of both he and Maggie, and force Maggie and her partner Kate to make some choices that have far-reaching consequences.
The the family dynamics in this novel are more than a little rough and not particularly believable. While I accept that there are blokes out there who are woman-hating, violent bullies, even back in the 70s it’s unlikely both a mother and brother would turn a blind eye to the blatant threats and at times the actual violence directed at Maggie. And that Maggie – a capable, intelligent, strong young woman – would accept such behaviour and abuse was as depressing as it was bloody annoying.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the basic plot and parts of the story but found myself losing interest in the characters rather quickly as nearly every man was portrayed as a misogynistic a-hole and every woman a victim.
I wasn’t a trainee cop in Atlanta during the 70s – more of a trainee person attending St George primary school here in little old Invercargill – but I know several women who were working in male-dominated jobs at the time who certainly didn’t get treated with the level of hideous contempt aimed at the women police officers in this book.
It was hard going and there were times when I wanted to give up on it because it was just so full of hate that it almost became unbearable, but to be fair to the author, I was interested enough in the story of who shot Jimmy’s partner and why to persevere.
It was a good enough read, but not great. Unfortunately, the characters were neither good nor great.