Saturday 7 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: Bluebird, Bluebird - Attica Locke

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.

What did I think?

I may have accidentally stumbled upon Bluebird, Bluebird when some blog tour spots suddenly became available but I am so pleased that I did, otherwise I might have missed this astonishing book.  Of course, the spots were snapped up quicker than I could respond, but fortunately I was invited to close the tour.

The prologue states 'Texas, 2016' and after that, due to the words and actions of the characters, I felt as if the book went back in time to around the 1950's but I couldn't have been more wrong.  I was actually gobsmacked when one of the characters mentioned the TV shows Scandal and Real Housewives.  I wish I could believe it was all fiction, but the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, just like the Ku Klux Klan, is very real indeed.

Skin colour plays a big part in this story when two bodies are found in the bayou: the first body is that of a black lawyer from Chicago, Michael Wright, which causes barely a flicker among the residents of Lark, Texas.  The second body is Missy Dale, a local white woman, which sees law enforcement officers from across the state descend on Lark.  The police don't think there is any link between the deaths because nobody cares about stranger Michael Wright, however, Texas Ranger Darren Matthews doesn't believe in coincidence.

As the story unfolds, the secrets of all the residents of Lark come to the fore.  Some of them have more to hide than others and one of them has a lot to lose when Darren uncovers a link to the murder of Joe Sweet, husband of local cafe owner, Geneva.  Fingers start pointing at likely suspects and the police don't know whether they are looking for one killer or two.

I felt absolutely wrung out after reading Bluebird, Bluebird.  I don't know whether I was exhausted with the dry, dusty Texas heat or cotton-mouthed from being unable to put the book down for refreshments.  It's alarming to think that skin colour still has an effect on how people are treated these days, and full marks to Attica Locke for raising the issue.  I often google things after reading, and I had assumed that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) was created for the purposes of this book.  You could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw that the ABT, and many gangs like them, are real.

I can see Bluebird, Bluebird becoming a firm favourite for book groups as there are so many excellent discussion points in it.  The story is vivid, shocking and thought-provoking and this may be the first time that I have heard of Attica Locke, but I know it won't be the last.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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