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PAPER GODS by Goldie Taylor: Book Review

When I came across this quotation on Google, it seemed the perfect description of the politicians in Paper Goods, Goldie Taylor’s debut mystery novel.  “Politics have no relations to morals,” said Niccolò Machiavelli, often called the father of modern political science.  His cynical view is seen on every page of Ms. Taylor’s excellent book.

Victoria Dobbs is the mayor of Atlanta and a protégée of Ezra Hawkins, a United States representative for the district that covers Georgia’s capital.  The two go way back, both in city hall politics and in their membership in the fabled Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached.  Their politics have mostly been in accord over the years, but now it appears that a major division has taken place over a bill that is due for a vote in Congress, and neither one will give way to the other.

Mayor Dobbs is seated in the church’s sanctuary, listening to remarks by Hawkins, when a rifle shot shatters the building’s ceiling and kills Hawkins and three other parishioners, with more critically injured.  The F.B.I. and the Atlanta Police Department are immediately on the scene, but it is the mayor who becomes the spokesperson for the massacre.  “There will be justice,” she promises.

Victoria rules the city with an iron hand and doesn’t take orders from anyone on any topic.  When she is called several hours after the shooting and informed by her police chief that his officers have surrounded the house with the suspected shooter inside and are trying to take him into custody, she gives the command to “Put him down….I said shoot him.”

On the mayor’s trail is Hampton Bridges, an investigative journalist who is definitely a persona non grata at City Hall or anywhere else under Victoria’s control.  He is writing a series of articles about corruption in her office, including questions about her brother’s conflicts of interest while controlling billions in public spending.  That finally prompted Victoria to remove her brother from her mayoral campaign but did nothing to improve the already tense relationship between the reporter and the mayor.  And Victoria’s not-so-secret desire to take Ezra’s place in a special election for Congress is pushing Hampton to work ever more feverishly to lay bare her secrets and make certain she loses.

Hampton is not the only one eager to make sure that Victoria doesn’t get to D. C.  Virgil Loudermilk, the white power broker in Atlanta, had been behind Victoria in previous elections, but since she’s stymied a bill he wanted passed that would have earned him millions, he has become her enemy.  And he is a powerful one.

Goldie Taylor, editor at The Daily Beast, former political consultant and filmmaker, obviously knows whereof she writes.  Paper Goods is a close look into the not-very-pretty state of politics in America today, rife with corruption and back-room deals.  No one in this novel is totally innocent, and the reader’s sympathies will go from one character to another with each discovery of dirty dealing.  The plot is tight and the characters totally believable.  Ms. Taylor will keep you reading until the last page.

You can read more about Goldie Taylor at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.