A black Texas Ranger tries to solve 2 murders in rural Texas - Bluebird, Bluebird, first in a series
A black Texas Ranger dealing with a pile of personal issues is called on to solve two murders in rural eastern Texas - a black lawyer passing through town and a local white woman. Racial tensions are high in this tiny backwater town; can the Ranger set aside his own issues and do his job?
Bluebird, Bluebird (#1 Hwy59), Attica Locke
Published 2017, 303 pages
The mystery is solid: two seemingly unrelated murders - a black man passing through town and a young, local white woman. The protagonist is a well-meaning but realistically flawed man just trying to do the best he can - my favorite kind of 'hero'. Darren (the Ranger) has marriage trouble, an extremely rocky relationship with his mom, an uncle who wants him to leave the Rangers and become a lawyer......is it any wonder he turns to drink? I appreciate Locke's ability to portray his need to drink after stressful situations - I felt his desire to be professional and yet the pull to drink to get through the night.
Of course, since the murders are of a black man and white woman, there are certainly racial undertones throughout. It would be unrealistic to ignore them. Plus Darren has the added challenge of trying to investigate murders when the local police don't want him there, AND he's black trying to tell a white sherriff what to do. Yep, spells trouble! The Aryan Brotherhood also makes an appearance and his attempt to deal with them, as a black man of authority, is interesting. More trouble.
"While looking into the cases of men and women, mostly black and Latino, who had been wrongfully accused and often incarcerated for decades, the two investigators discovered a pattern: for every story about a black mother, sister, or wife crying over a man who was locked up for something he didn't do, there was a black mother, sister, wife, husband, father, or brother crying over the murder of a loved one for which no one was locked up."
Though I've never been to Texas, I found the descriptions of ultra-small town Texas and the people who inhabit that remote area very evocative. I especially liked the contrasting of the two town hangouts: black folks hang out at Geneva Sweet's tiny cafe getting good southern cooking; half a mile away, white folks hang out at Jeff's Juice Joint where hard liquor is served with healthy doses of racism.
"Maybe justice was messier than Darren realized when he'd first pinned a badge to his chest; it was no better or worse than a sieve, a cheap net, a catch-as-catch-can system that gave the illusion of righteousness when really the need for tidy resolution trumped sloppy uncertainty any day. .... Grab one, any one, and don't ask any more questions."
The story moved with a good steady pace, filling in Darren's history and the 'why' of his decisions, while also moving the murder investigation forward. Locke gave Darren lots of personality and baggage and in doing so gave us a character to root for. I hate flawed characters that are 'hand-wringers' and filled with 'oh woe is me'. Locke handles his uncertainties with restraint and truth. So very well done.