MINM Review: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Winner and nominee of multiple awards, including the 2018 Edgar award for Best Novel, the 2018 Anthony award for Best Novel, and the 2017 Los Angeles Times book prize for mystery/thriller, Bluebird, Bluebird by American author Attica Locke is a mystery novel dripping with southern, blues atmosphere, one that digs deep, and often suspensefully, into interpersonal relationships and family sagas. It is the author's heartfelt love letter to the land of her grandparents, and an unapologetic portrait of race relations in rural, East Texas.

Sit for a spell at Geneva Sweet's Sweets, a one room cafe in the little town of Lark, where black-eyed peas and oxtails, and fried fruit pies for dessert are on the menu, John Lee Hooker's "Bluebird" is playing on the jukebox, and a little bell jingles when a customer opens the screen door, after greeting neighbor Wendy, who sells her preserves and her Texas curiosities on the front porch.

Just a few short minutes down the farm road , and a million miles away, is Jeff's Juice House, known to Geneva's customers as The Icehouse. When a 35 year old attorney from Chicago "takes a ride up Highway 59", he never guesses just how different daily life can be for a person of color in an East Texas backwater like Shelby County, even in 2016. When his bloated body is discovered in the Bayou, the local sheriff seems to be slow-walking the investigation. But then the body of a young, white female is found in the brackish water behind Geneva's cafe, more recently deceased than the black man, it would seem. What are the chances that these two deaths were accidental? If not accidental, were they racially motivated, with one being a retribution killing for the other? Were the two victims connected in some way? Black Texas Ranger Darren Mathews receives a tip-off about two recent, unexplained deaths in one tiny town, prompting him to return to his East Texas roots to investigate. Ranger Mathews is a wonderful, complex character who aspires to be honorable, and to follow facts, and evidence wherever it leads.

Readers should be aware that the novel does contain some provocative, racial epithets, but reading truths in literature, however painful, can often increase the reader's empathy and understanding. Bluebird, Bluebird is an honest, powerful, slice-of-life-in-a-rural-East-Texas-town story. It is also a satisfying mystery, infused with literary symbolism, that will have many readers reflecting upon their own possible assumptions about "the other", and there will never be a wrong time for that.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke book cover image.jpg

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy reading more literary mystery and crime fiction.

  • Who are interested in reading about race relations and civil rights, especially in the south.

  • Who appreciate crime fiction and mysteries that emphasize character development, as well as interpersonal and family relationships.

  • Who are interested in East Texas lore and culture.

  • Who are interested in the musical style known as "the blues".

Pages: 307 (Hardcover)

Hours: 9 Hrs. 24 Mins. (Audio Book)

Publisher's Blurb:

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.

East Texas: it's an unforgiving landscape where justice for all can be hard to come by-a fact that Darren Mathews, an African-American Texas Ranger knows all too well. Darren made it out alive, but returned to the only place he'll ever call home to fight those who forced him to flee. When the struggle lands him in hot water, Darren takes a trip along Highway 59 to Lark, where two murders-an African-American lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman-have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes before Lark's long simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the music of Texas, BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD, is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America. 

MINM Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars

(Please note: any advertisement included in the musical link to John Lee Hooker's song "Bluebird" does not necessarily reflect the views of Mystery in Minutes.)