Online Exclusive
Bluebird, Bluebird

by Attica Locke
Mulholland Books, September 2017, $26

Racial injustices from the past alongside the continuing present-day divide set the scene for Attica Locke's new novel set in East Texas.

Darren Matthews is a Texas Ranger, one of those near-mythical law enforcement officers of the Lone Star State who are the stuff of movie heroes. But being a black man having grown up in East Texas, he's keenly aware of how things work when it comes to interactions between the police and the black community.

On suspension and facing possible termination, Darren finds himself nagged by family members to quit his job and go into the legal field. His estranged wife has kicked him out and he's drinking just a bit too much, but when he's offered a temporary reprieve from his suspension to look into two murders, both a week apart, in barely-a-dot-on-the-map Lark, Texas, he ends up finding a whole lot more than he expected.

The murders of a black man and a white woman look to be connected, but how exactly seems unclear. Matthews soons finds that while they briefly spoke to one another, they didn't really know each other. What was the man doing in Lark, and is there a connection to drugs and the white supremacist gang of crooks that inhabit the town?

The story also looks at the interwined lives of the townspeople of Lark. While they aren't really all that friendly, they just can't seem to stay away from each other. Ranger Matthews receives little help from the locals. The sheriff is more interested in currying favor with the town's bigwig than solving the murder of a black man, and the local food shack owner Geneva Sweet, who clearly knows something, is keeping things close to the vest and doesn't trust Matthews despite their shared background.

The twists and turns of the narrative will keep readers on edge right through the fiery hail of gunfire climax. There is a resolution to the murders, but Locke wisely leaves the underlying reasons behind them unresolved, just as they so often are in real life. Despite an unsatisfying kind of cliffhanger epilogue, Bluebird, Bluebird sharply defines on man's resolve to solve a crime, despite his own doubts about his past, his future, and those friends and foes standing in his way as he looks for answers on all fronts. Fueled by booze, barbecue, and the music of the blues, Bluebird, Bluebird is an instantly gripping thriller.

Jay Roberts

locke bluebirdbluebirdRacial injustices from the past alongside the continuing present-day divide set the scene for Attica Locke's new novel set in East Texas.

Teri Duerr
September 2017
Mulholland Books