''Even in the glow of morning there was darkness.'' These are words that open Officers Down by Eliot Sefrin, a tantalizing thriller with strong and resonant themes, a deft exploration of racism in a poor community. The opening is a dark premonition of the strong premise that opens the narrative — the murder of an innocent Black teen, an eighth-grader. Responding to a 911 Call, New York City police officers Matt Holland and Rachel Cook accidentally kill an innocent Black teen in a poor neighborhood in a city that is already reeling from the tension resulting from racism. The consequences are devastating for the officers as the angry throng of onlookers quickly transforms into an enraged community. The officers and those affected by the tragedy, including Charles and Eunice Johnson, the parents of the murdered teenager, and enmeshed in a case that is tainted by racial biases, hatred, and political intrigue. Can justice be served for C. J.’s murder?
This is an intelligently plotted thriller with characters that are not just deeply flawed, but believable and memorable. The journey that the characters make and how the lives of the main characters unfold throughout the story will inspire readers to always look beyond appearances. Matt and his wife Katie, Charles and Eunice Johnson, and Rachel are elaborately written and nuanced characters. This book is a brilliant exploration of how an accidental shooting can unravel the tension that has built up within a community like a volcano, simmering in silence in the depths of the Earth and waiting for a moment to explode. I was particularly thrilled by the maturity demonstrated by Clifford Johnson's parents and how this opened a path toward healing. Eliot Sefrin writes in dazzling prose and creates dialogues that are sparkling. The drama beefs up the pace and the beautiful prose augments the delightful reading experience. This is a novel that entertains hugely. But it is a story that should be discussed for the lessons it offers. This novel has no equal in its pitch-perfect portrayal of the racial tensions that have been characteristic of Black communities in the last decade. It is nuanced, deft, and balanced. Officers Down is emotionally rich and a tale that will have readers thinking about the misunderstandings and wrong interpretations that have often fueled racism in contemporary America. It's a masterpiece with compelling social commentaries.