In her latest novel, editor and essayist Golden (Don’t Play in the Sun, 2004, etc.) examines the vexing problem of cops who kill unarmed civilians.
It’s night when a traffic stop goes bad for officer Carson Blake. Carson, 12 years on the force, has never fired his gun. Afraid for his life, he shoots the driver dead, realizing too late the driver’s gun was a cell phone. This happens in a deserted parking lot in suburban Maryland; both Carson and the victim are black. Golden shows both men at fault: Carson should have waited for backup; the victim should have stayed on the ground and kept his hands away from his waistband. What comes next for Carson is anguished remorse and endless bad dreams. He’s a decent man; no saint, but certainly not a psycho. He and his wife Bunny, a commercial artist, live comfortable lives, with three beautiful kids. Carson’s low point comes when he puts a gun in his mouth; he is saved by a vision of his loving family. Then come sessions with Carrie Petersen, cop-turned-therapist. Carson talks about his harsh father, Jimmy; the revelation that he was not his actual daddy drove him to the streets, where he felt in control as he mugged easy victims. Control. Isn’t that why Carson joined the force, probes Carrie? Reluctantly, Carson agrees. Though he is cleared by a grand jury and Internal Affairs, Carson still feels far from redemption. All this is entirely credible, but here Golden falters, switching for a while to the grieving parents of the victim, then jumping forward two years (Carson has left the force and become, implausibly, a real-estate agent), and lastly having his stepfather’s hatefulness surface in Carson, who tears into his 15-year-old son Juwan for being gay. It’s too late in the game for these eruptions, which distract from Carson’s attempt to make peace with the victim’s family.
A solidly grounded rendering of cop culture, but spotty as a story of personal redemption.