Bluebird, Bluebird

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) by Attica Locke is another book I picked up for a class.

For those of you who are new here — or who missed my review of Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey — I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Emporia State University. I took a readers’ advisory class last semester where we were required to read books in a variety of genres. Readers’ advisory is a service where patrons ask someone — usually a librarian — for reading recommendations based on past reading interests.

And I have to say, I recommend this book for anyone who likes a good murder mystery.

In Bluebird, Bluebird, a black Texas Ranger named Darren Matthews finds himself investigating a double homicide in a small Texas town called Lark. Within about a week, two bodies have turned up in Lark — one of a local white woman and the other of a black man from Chicago.

Matthews, despite being on suspension from his position as a ranger because of his involvement in another case, finds himself looking into the situation, in part because local law enforcement has failed to investigate several of the leads in the case.

It deals with the serious issues of race and racism in a small, southern community and with Matthews’ complicated relationships with his job and with his family, many of whom wish he had just stayed in law school instead of becoming a Texas Ranger.

Locke does not paint over the cracks in American culture. She deals with the problems caused by the country’s history of systemic racism — and like it or not we do have a history of racism in this country and it does have an impact on our culture today. You can’t just clap your hands and wish away centuries of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Whether we like looking it in the face or not, it’s reality and ignoring it doesn’t help. Ignoring it is like applying a bandaid to a broken leg. It doesn’t work.

But I digress.

I appreciated the way the author addressed her main character’s conflicting feelings about Texas — his home state — which he loves while still being frustrated with the culture he sees in rural parts of the state. Matthews, in general, is a deeply conflicted man and that just makes him more interesting to read about.

This is also a well-written book in every other respect. It keeps readers guessing until the last few pages as to what really happened and why.

One thing about this book I didn’t care for was Matthews’ relationship with the female lead, Randie.

Matthews is a married man but his wife, Lisa, doesn’t travel with him on cases for obvious reasons.

He spends a lot of time with Randie, the wife of the man from Chicago. Randie is desperate to figure out who killed her husband — as is Matthews — so naturally the two spend a lot of time together. Randie and Matthews’ relationship never crosses the line into anything inappropriate, but there were times it felt like it was about to — times when it wasn’t clear what they thought about each other.

My biggest complaint is that the book ended on a cliffhanger. It’s the first book in a series — called “the Highway 59” series — and the second book, “Heaven, My Home” is out and available, so I’ll definitely be picking it up when I have the chance.

It deserves every award it has won if you want my opinion and it has won several. It won an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2018 — both of which are awards for mystery novels — among others.

I listened to this as an audiobook — as I usually do, since sitting still and reading a hardcopy book is something I haven’t had time for in a while. However, a quick glance through the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library catalog shows that it’s available through the library, as is the sequel.

You might want to check it out.

LYDIA KAUTZ is the Managing Editor of the Junction City Union.

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