Darktown by Thomas Mullen. In 1948 Atlanta, the police Department has been ordered to hire its first African-American police officers. While these eight men, many of them WWII veterans, are “members” of the force, their duties are restricted: they’re only allowed to patrol in African-American neighborhoods, they aren’t allowed to arrest whites, they can’t even enter police headquarters. When two of these new recruits, Boggs and Smith, begin an investigation into the death of an African-American woman last seen in the company of a white man, they run into a storm of white privilege, racism, police conspiracy, and violence. The question is not just whether they’ll bring a killer to justice, but if they’ll survive with their jobs and their lives. In this mystery based on real events in Atlanta Police Department history, Thomas Mullens uses a compelling plot and complex characters, to remind us both how far we’ve come and how much remains the same, not only in Atlanta, but across the United States.
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke. In this second installment in the Highway 59 series, Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is trying to locate a missing child, a search that brings him into conflict with a white supremacist group. Matthews search is complicated by the fallout from his last case, including a marriage that’s shaky, a mother who may or may not have his best interests at heart, and a career whose future is uncertain. When the case takes Matthews to a small Texas town whose local economy is based on nostalgia for antebellum Texas, he discovers that the racial attitudes of some residents are as current as they are nostalgic, and that he’s fighting against racism as well as time in his search for the child. Peopled with a broad swath of vibrantly drawn characters, Heaven, My Home uses a complex mystery to ask equally complex questions about the nature of race in America.