Midnight Atlanta

Midnight Atlanta (Darktown #3) – Thomas Mullen

In the offices of The Daily Times, Atlanta’s premier black newspaper, Tommy Smith, former police officer turned journalist, is asleep at his desk when a gunshot jerks him awake.  He runs to find the body of the paper’s publisher, Arthur Bishop, dead on the floor.  He makes a call to his old precinct to report the murder only to find himself in the crosshairs of a few white cops looking to quickly close a case.

Shutting the book on this murder, however, will prove harder than expected.  Smith’s ex-partner Lucius Boggs and his sergeant Joe McInnis have to wade through the weeds of the FBI, a group of communist activists and a pair of suspicious private eyes looking to cover up what really happened.

Thomas Mullen’s Darktown series has been an enjoyable one.  Midnight Atlanta is no exception.  It’s been a few years since I read the first two books in the series, but there seemed to be a lot more moving parts this time around.  While the focus is the investigation into the murder of Arthur Bishop, Mullen is also juggling the transit boycott put forth by Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama, the case of a black man accused of raping his white girlfriend, the desegregation of southern schools and the red scare.

With that approach, Mullen was able to let a lot of red herrings dangle and given that any one of them was plausible, it kept me guessing right up until the end.  It also helped that many of the characters that Mullen continues to bring to life are strong, engaging and memorable, making both their motivations and reactions consistent and believable.  Like the previous two novels, the ugliness of the civil-rights era in the south continues to bleed into many of the relationships among the characters creating a strain on those still struggling to do the right thing.  You really feel the weight of oppression on the backs of these characters.

In the afterword, Mullen speaks of the extensive research that went into crafting this series and even lists many of the books and materials he used.  With this information, it feels like Mullen could be wrapping this up as a trilogy.  I have no idea if Mullen plans to continue the series, but I hope he does as there’s still plenty to work with as America continues on its brutal road to some form of racial equality.

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