Bluebird, Bluebird

Review From User :

Attica Locke has written a superb novel that is bleak, compelling, atmospheric, with a strong sense of location of small town East Texas, that depressingly mirrors many parts of the USA today. It gives us the disturbingly unsettling everyday experiences of Darren Mathews that suggest nothing has changed since the days of an openly active KKK running rife, where lynchings were common, and where black communities lived in fear of their lives on a daily basis. Darren is a black Texan Ranger, suspended for going to the aid of Mack, whose granddaughter, Breana, is harassed by Ronnie Malvo, a diehard ABT racist. A few days later, Malvo is found shot dead, and Mack is seen as the main suspect. Darren tries to do his best for Mack to ensure he does not stand trial for murder, and this outcome hangs over Darren throughout the story. The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) is a strong and active presence in East Texas, additionally involved in meths production and the illegal sale of guns. Darren is a troubled man, his marriage to Lisa is threatening to splinter because of the dangers of him being a Ranger, his drinking, and the time he spends away from home.

Darren hears of two bodies recovered from a bayou in Lark, in Shelby County. One is a black lawyer, Michael Wright, from Chicago but with local roots and the other is local white girl, Missy, discovered two days later. Despite his suspension, he goes to Lark to investigate. He is in redneck country and discovers that it is impossible to understand the black grandmother Geneva, and her black community cafe without Wally's icehouse, a local ABT bar run by the repulsive Brady. Geneva lost her beloved husband, Joe Sweet shot in 2010, and her son was shot by his wife, Mary, in 2013. Wally is wealthy, although it is not clear where the money comes from, and he has plenty of clout with the local sheriff. Lark is not welcoming of Darren, he finds a dead fox left in his truck, and his life in deadly danger. However, he identifies with the dead Michael and feels for the widow, Randie, as he searches for the truth against all the odds. Neither the Texas Rangers nor local law enforcement will consider or allow for race as a motive for the murders due to political implications. As Darren trawls through the murky waters of local intertwined history, he finds that family, love, hate and jealousy have lead to murders in the past and present.

The title Bluebird, Bluebird is a reference to the highly symbolic John Lee Hooker's song, Bluebird, Bluebird, take this letter down South for me. I loved Locke's novel Black Water Rising, but this is superlative, it has her trademark beautiful prose. It is a compelling story with its insightful and pertinent social and political commentary on the incendiary issues of race and justice that continue to divide and threaten the US today. It chillingly explains just how strong the bedrock of support for Donald Trump is and why worryingly it remains undiminished. It is a complex tale with a central character, Darren, caught up in a fraught situation with personal reverberations that have him questioning his identity and if he should continue to serve as a Texas Ranger. This is the first of the Highway 59 series by Locke and I cannot wait to read the next. A phenomenal read that I highly recommend. Many thanks to Serpent's Tail for an ARC.


A powerful thriller about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice from a writer and producer of the Emmy winning Fox TV show Empire.

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

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