Midnight Atlanta by Thomas Mullen

There are many crime novels where the detectives are given a character trait or a situation that makes their job more difficult. You can’t have a detective strolling in and solving the crime easily – what would the story be about? But in Midnight Atlanta the police really do have a difficult job because they are black, only allowed to work at night in areas where black people live in Atlanta in 1956. They are not allowed to arrest a white person or go into white neighbourhoods. Talk about having one hand tied behind your back.

This is an excellent story which delivers not only on the crime but also on the relationship between the newspapers and police and the racial tensions at that time. The city is gearing up to refusing to travel on the buses as a protest and the whites are fighting back about integrated schooling. Amidst all this a black newspaper man who owns a paper is shot in his office late at night but the killer is disturbed by one of the reporters who is sleeping off a drinking session at his desk when he hears the shots.

This then spirals out of control with the FBI watching people, supposedly because of the racial tensions, private detectives breaking in to offices and houses looking for something and Smith the reporter being beaten on more than one occasion.

The black police have a white officer in charge who slowly grows to enjoy the job he does, despite the fact that people stop talking to him and often take a superior approach to him because of who he works with. He is pushed around once too often and decides to take matters into his own hands and not give in to these people and in doing so, leads his men to solving the crime along with the news reporter.

The story details really clearly the day to day micro-aggressions and sometimes not so micro of being a black person in a white-run society: never looking people in the eye, backing down, not being believed, being arrested even though it is obvious you didn’t commit the crime and of course not answering back and being called ‘boy’. It is a testament to the police that they persevered and caught those who were guilty even if they didn’t always face the legal system.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope there will be more to come.

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