Paper Gods by Goldie Taylor is a political thriller centered in Atlanta where characters pretend to be sweet as syrup to the public and wicked in private.
Equipped with degrees from Spelman College and Harvard Law, Atlanta mayor Victoria Dobbs is a force to be reckoned with. Her shiny life with her cardiac surgeon husband Marshall Overstreet and their twin daughters, Maya and Mahalia, after poet Angelou and gospel singer Jackson, is enviable. When her mentor Congressman Ezra Hawkins is shot dead by a sniper in the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Victoria finds a red origami dragon beside Hawkins’ body. She takes it and tries to decipher the meaning since she’s seen one before. But Hawkins’ position is up for grabs, and Victoria wants it. As she announces her run in the special election, uber-wealthy White men Virgil Loudermilk and his cousin-brother Whit Delacourte look for their own candidate to snatch Victoria’s power. It turns out mostly Loudermilk’s actions have sinister origins, connected to a committee of White politicos arranging for Democratic Black politicos to hold city positions like mayor but not state positions like governor, reserved for mostly White Republicans. The forced racial divide in politics has piqued the interest of veteran reporter Hampton Bridges as he’s been pursuing the story for years. His snooping has placed him on the blacklist for Victoria, Loudermilk, and Delacourte. He’s also been a victim of a suspicious car crash with his latest college-age girl in the front seat that raises more concern. While everyone is trying to hide their secrets and dodge threats, they are making sure they protect their best interests no matter who gets killed in the process.
This novel explores the dual identity most politicos presumably live with. Mayor Dobbs, for example, is the impeccable Black woman worthy of likeability, but she’s also pulling strings behind the scenes to make sure she stays on top. Loudermilk and Delacourte remain top lawyers at major companies throughout the Atlanta region while pulling the strings in overall state politics. Everyone’s hands in this story are dirty and get filthier by the page. The amount of scandal that multiplies for each character makes it a page-turner, especially as characters get killed or almost killed. What incites character empathy is how the characters try to protect their families, with many members having the Southern-style double first name.
Overall, the novel is an entertaining take on the fictional political atmosphere that reads like a smooth investigative magazine piece. The author is the editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, so she uses many of the characters’ last names as their main names, meaning it’s written with journalistic flair. Read this book before the John Legend-produced ABC series starring Nia Long comes out. Also, the audiobook is hard to follow with the plethora of detail, especially all the names, and popular reader Bahni Turpin’s voice doesn’t vibe with the material.