Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review of Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (2017, Mulholland)

Darren Mathews’ career as a Texas Ranger looks like it could be over, as well as his marriage. While both are in hiatus, an old friend points him to a pair of murders in the tiny settlement of Lark, which is little more than a pit stop on Highway 59. The first murder was a black lawyer from Chicago, the second a couple of days later, a local white woman. The local sheriff doesn’t want a Texas Ranger looking over his shoulder, especially a black one, and the locals are not happy he’s there either, especially those who attend a local bar where members of the Aryan Brotherhood hang out. Undeterred and determined to discover the truth before he loses his badge, Mathews starts to poke around, annoying just about everyone he encounters, including the wife of the dead lawyer. There are secrets in Lark, however, that nobody on either side of the racial divide wants revealed.

Bluebird, Bluebird is a police procedural set in East Texas centered on the investigation of a pair of murders by Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews. Race, family and community are its central hooks, explored through the killing of a black lawyer and a white woman in a small, rural settlement, and the turmoil in Mathews own life. Mathews is battling a number of issues at work and home – a career being derailed, a marriage on the rocks, a guardian pushing for a career change, a dysfunctional mother, an obstructionist local sheriff, and drink. The murders in Lark are a chance to redeem his career, and also to potentially contribute to the ongoing investigation to Aryan Brotherhood operating in the state. But little goes well after his arrival in Lark. Racial tension is high, and a black ranger is unwelcome. Locke nicely balances Mathew’s personal life with the investigation of an intriguing mystery, using both to provide an insightful social commentary on institutionalised racism in the Deep South. The story is well paced, the prose evocative, and the there’s a couple of nice twists. A strong start to the series.

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