Friday, May 10, 2019

Review: Bluebird, Bluebird

Bluebird, Bluebird
From Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke:
Open quote 

She wondered if the sheriff had arrived yet, if the mess that had washed up in her backyard this morning was still there, that girl lying out there all alone. She had a vague worry about what all this might do to her business, but mostly she tried to comprehend what in God’s name was happening to the town in which she’d spent all her sixty-nine years. Two bodies inside a week. What in the devil was going on?"

Bluebird, Bluebird is a detective story, set in the fictional small town of Lark, somewhere in east Texas. It has things to say about the state of race relations in east Texas, and about the complex relationships in small towns everywhere. It's this year's selection for Richardson Reads One Book.

Grade: B+

Bluebird, Bluebird is a quick read. It's a straightforward detective story. Two dead bodies turn up days apart in a small town in east Texas where everybody knows everybody else's business and they are not exactly open to sharing it with strangers. One a black man from Chicago seemingly just passing through town. The other a young white woman who lived there. Into this potential powder keg steps Darren Matthews, a (black) Texas Ranger who can't help thinking there's more to the crimes than the local (white) sheriff cares to admit. Of course, he's right. Everybody is connected to everybody else and everybody wants to keep the town's secrets secret.

In many ways, the stereotypes and coincidences and the way the plot resolves itself are all too pat. Much of the novel's suspense turns on the relationships between rich white landowners and their poor black neighbors, between white supremacists and intimidated blacks. Darren Matthews himself has a backstory. His dedication to the Texas Rangers causes tension in his marriage. His inability to always go by the book and his weakness for alcohol are always getting him into trouble with superiors.

Bluebird, Bluebird doesn't try to sell itself as literary fiction. It's more like a TV police procedural. It's subtitled "A Highway 59 Mystery Book 1" so I imagine we'll be reading more about Texas Ranger Darren Matthews. And that's OK. I imagine the Richardson book clubs will have plenty to talk about. Is east Texas really like that? Under what conditions is it better to just leave powder kegs alone? Are things better off in Lark, Texas, at the end of the novel than at the beginning? And why can't we all just get along?

Bluebird, Bluebird is available in multiple formats at the Richardson Public Library.

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