Author of the Month
Name: Attica Locke
First Novel: Black Water Rising
Most Recent Book: Bluebird, Bluebird
'...a finely crafted novel with the most sublime prose. '
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.
With the recent events in Charlottesville on our screens with the head of white supremacy rearing its ugly head, ‘Bluebird, Bluebird’ seems as though Locke had a crystal ball to the future! But this is not only about that, it goes far deeper. It is not only about the colour of someone’s skin, but about history and heritage in deep Texas.
The tiny town of Lark could be classed as a ‘one horse town’. Everyone knows the other’s business, but still secrets are kept within its dark, dusty roads. Darren Mathews is a black Ranger whose own complicated life from childhood to adulthood mirrors that of some of the population of Lark. With his fierce determination to get to the truth, he uncovers secrets that go back decades.
This is not a sermon from Locke about race, but a finely crafted novel with the most sublime prose. I felt that every word and insinuation was carefully chosen and placed for maximum effect without turning this book into a potboiler. Locke really gets her hands dirty, digging down deep under the skin of her main characters.
Locke brings her novel to a sad, yet uplifting end whilst also delivering a final twist that means we will have to wait for her next book to see how Ranger Mathews deals with a particular problem close to home.
This is a fine novel from a supreme writer who not only delivered a great story, leaving me with the bitter taste of those dusty roads in Lark, but also giving me the smells of the deep South and a wonderful Blues soundtrack woven into the fabric of her story. An inspiring novel of fine artistry.
Reviewed by: C.S.