I am delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Attica Locke’s new novel Bluebird Bluebird.
Title: Bluebird Bluebird
Author: Attica Locke
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Publication date: 28 September 2017
Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.
But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.
So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s 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.
Thank you to Serpent’s Tail for providing me with a review copy of Bluebird Bluebird. I understand that the book is the first in a new Highway 59 series from author Attica Locke.
In Bluebird Bluebird, two deaths in the rural east Texan town of Lark bring racial tensions to the forefront. Texas Ranger, Darren Matthews is a hard-drinking detective who is suffering marital difficulties as a result of his career. Finding himself suspended from duty, Matthews finds himself in Lark investigating those two suspicious deaths. As a black man in eastern Texas, Matthews knows and understands the attitudes still prevalent in that area, however even he is shocked to see how differently the two investigations are treated by the local police based upon the victim’s racial background.
Whilst somewhat of a slow burn, the tale is beautifully written, very evocative and utterly absorbing. As a native Texan, Locke brings an authenticity to the story and there is a descriptive quality to her writing which really gives a strong sense of place and an air of nostalgia. I particularly loved the descriptions of Geneva Sweet’s café, with the unusual wall adornments, the barber’s chair in the room and the smell of oxtail and catfish frying in the kitchen.
The subject matter is not easy and some of the scenes really are quite disturbing. I must admit that it did come as somewhat of a shock to realise that there are still some corners of society that remain stuck in such a time warp, where views and attitudes simply have not moved on and racism (including institutional racism) remains ingrained in their culture. Bluebird Bluebird really gives the reader a quite profound view of contemporary life as a black man in rural Texas and I think that this will stick in my mind for a long time to come.
Locke certainly has a flair for storytelling. Bluebird Bluebird proves to be an elegant and powerful thriller about racial tensions, love and justice. There is an air of restraint during the first half of the story which belies the underlying anger at the injustices detailed within the book. Bluebird Bluebird is a truly compelling tale of secrets and lies. I would thoroughly recommend this book.
About the Author
Attica Locke’s Pleasantville was the 2016 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It was also long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, and made numerous “Best of 2015” lists. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is a national bestseller and the winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. A former fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab, Locke has worked as a screenwriter as well. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on the Fox drama, Empire. She serves on the board of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.
You can catch up with the rest of the stops on the Bluebird Bluebird blog tour by visiting the following blogs: