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Bluebird, Bluebird (2017)

by Attica Locke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Highway 59 (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8046122,660 (3.84)86
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have 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. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Murder, Race, Duty Collide in Texas

Yes, there’s a double murder to be solved here and arriving at the solution is something of a thrill ride. But, really, the questions most notable in the novel revolve around the main character, Darren Mathews, the black Texas Ranger.

“Texas Ranger,” these are magic words that conjure up all sorts of images, with the most prominent being “integrity,” “respect,” and “honesty.” Why mention these at the outset? Because, as readers will discover as the pages flip by, these are the fulcrum upon which Ranger Mathews teeters from start to finish, until we learn exactly where he stands in relation to those concepts. Then there’s the question of why anybody would quit the University of Chicago law school to return to Texas to be, essentially, a cop. What the heck is it about Texas that firmly roots a black man to its vast geography populated with its fair share of American racists? As if murder, Ranger fealty, and Texas blood are not sufficient, there’s also self torture over a marriage in peril to occupy the scattered underworked portions of Ranger Mathews’ mind.

The novel opens with Ranger Mathews caught in a dicey situation. He is testifying before a grand jury regarding the murder of a belligerent Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) member. He was killed shortly after an incident on a family friend’s property, at which Mathews was present. It’s a tightrope the Ranger walks, and it haunts the entire novel, even after the grand jury delivers its decision. It’s sufficiently compromising that Ranger Mathews finds himself suspended until its resolution.

In the meantime, he receives a request from a friend at the FBI to amble on over to Lark, TX, were a double murder has just occurred involving a black man and a white woman, murders with racial implications and possible links to the ABT. There he mets an assortment of people, black and white, living side by side, or more literally across Route 59, in the case of Wally Jefferson III and Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, and up Route 59, in the case of Jeff’s Juice House, a bar owned by Wally, frequented by whites, and popular with the local ABT. This is the ABT that’s not supposed to exist in Sheriff Van Horn’s county, the lawman in charge of the double murder investigation. What you have operating here is racial animus and fear, a sort of feudal juxtaposing of Wally’s Monticello-styled manse (his dog resides in an ersatz White House) and Geneva’s thrown up shack of an eatery and gathering place.

If you sense a connection here, you’re right, but it is even stronger than you can possibly suspect. These connections extend back in time before Geneva met her traveling bluesman husband Joe, who up and quit to settle with her. Everything is rooted and connected in Texas in ways that folks like these people and Ranger Mathews understand. And this includes the present murders, a murder from long ago, a love left unrequited, and a powerful stockpile of resentment. After some bruising encounters, after managing to get reinstated, after falling a little bit for the murdered man’s wife, after twisting himself in knots over his wife and her desire for him to return to law school and the precarious state of their marriage, Ranger Mathews solves not only to the double murder, but also one from Geneva’s past.

And what of his marriage? What about that grand jury decision? What secret does it hold to the moral character of Ranger Mathews, to the integrity and respect commanded by a Texas Ranger? The answers await you.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Murder, Race, Duty Collide in Texas

Yes, there’s a double murder to be solved here and arriving at the solution is something of a thrill ride. But, really, the questions most notable in the novel revolve around the main character, Darren Mathews, the black Texas Ranger.

“Texas Ranger,” these are magic words that conjure up all sorts of images, with the most prominent being “integrity,” “respect,” and “honesty.” Why mention these at the outset? Because, as readers will discover as the pages flip by, these are the fulcrum upon which Ranger Mathews teeters from start to finish, until we learn exactly where he stands in relation to those concepts. Then there’s the question of why anybody would quit the University of Chicago law school to return to Texas to be, essentially, a cop. What the heck is it about Texas that firmly roots a black man to its vast geography populated with its fair share of American racists? As if murder, Ranger fealty, and Texas blood are not sufficient, there’s also self torture over a marriage in peril to occupy the scattered underworked portions of Ranger Mathews’ mind.

The novel opens with Ranger Mathews caught in a dicey situation. He is testifying before a grand jury regarding the murder of a belligerent Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) member. He was killed shortly after an incident on a family friend’s property, at which Mathews was present. It’s a tightrope the Ranger walks, and it haunts the entire novel, even after the grand jury delivers its decision. It’s sufficiently compromising that Ranger Mathews finds himself suspended until its resolution.

In the meantime, he receives a request from a friend at the FBI to amble on over to Lark, TX, were a double murder has just occurred involving a black man and a white woman, murders with racial implications and possible links to the ABT. There he mets an assortment of people, black and white, living side by side, or more literally across Route 59, in the case of Wally Jefferson III and Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, and up Route 59, in the case of Jeff’s Juice House, a bar owned by Wally, frequented by whites, and popular with the local ABT. This is the ABT that’s not supposed to exist in Sheriff Van Horn’s county, the lawman in charge of the double murder investigation. What you have operating here is racial animus and fear, a sort of feudal juxtaposing of Wally’s Monticello-styled manse (his dog resides in an ersatz White House) and Geneva’s thrown up shack of an eatery and gathering place.

If you sense a connection here, you’re right, but it is even stronger than you can possibly suspect. These connections extend back in time before Geneva met her traveling bluesman husband Joe, who up and quit to settle with her. Everything is rooted and connected in Texas in ways that folks like these people and Ranger Mathews understand. And this includes the present murders, a murder from long ago, a love left unrequited, and a powerful stockpile of resentment. After some bruising encounters, after managing to get reinstated, after falling a little bit for the murdered man’s wife, after twisting himself in knots over his wife and her desire for him to return to law school and the precarious state of their marriage, Ranger Mathews solves not only to the double murder, but also one from Geneva’s past.

And what of his marriage? What about that grand jury decision? What secret does it hold to the moral character of Ranger Mathews, to the integrity and respect commanded by a Texas Ranger? The answers await you.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Good book. Great characters. Hard issues. Amazing writer. ( )
  shazjhb | Oct 4, 2021 |
Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is proud to wear the badge, but he is currently on suspension while an investigation into the death of a white supremacist is investigated. Darren's friend, Mack McMillan, is accused of killing Ronnie Malvo after Malvo tormented Mack's teen granddaughter. Both Darren and Mack are black, and Darren had been called to the scene.
Darren's mother, Bell, didn't raise him because she is an alcoholic. After his father died, Darren was raised by his uncle who encouraged him to attend law school. Although Bell didn't raise Darren, she holds his fate in her hands.
When Darren gets a call from another friend, he drives to east TX to snoop around where 2 people were pulled from a bayou. First, a black lawyer from Chicago, then a few days later, a white woman from the town. Missy was married to Keith Dale associated with Aryan Brotherhood of TX.
Darren snoops around the town of Lark and learns about the little restaurant owned by black Geneva Sweet. Both her husband and son are dead. White Wally Jefferson III lives across the road, and continues to ask Geneva to sell to him. When the dead lawyer's wife comes to Lark, she teams up with Darren to find out what happened.
Black/White racial tensions have deep roots in this town. ( )
  rmarcin | Aug 14, 2021 |
Deep dark secrets and racial tensions galore. A black lawyer from Chicago visits a small East Texas town, and his beaten, drowned body is found in the local bayou, near Geneva's Sweet Shop. Shortly thereafter, a local white woman is also found dead. Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, currently on suspension, is given permission to look into the deaths, thinking two deaths in such a short time in a tiny town is not just a coincidence. Matthews has a crumbling marriage, and finds a kindred spirit in the black lawyer's widow, who wants the guilty party or parties punished. Matthews thinks there is a racial angle, seeing the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas wherever he goes. Well written, taut and suspenseful. I look forward to more from Attica Locke. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Attica Lockeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jackson, J. D.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
I told him, "No, Mr. Moore."
-Lightnin' Hopkins, "Tom Moore Blues"
Dedication
To the
Hathorne 
Jackson
Johnson
Jones
Locke
Mark
McClendon
McGowan
Perry
Sweats 
Williams
men and women who said no
First words
Geneva Sweet ran an orange extension cord past Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest with Her Heavenly Father.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules--a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders--a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman--have 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. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, Bluebird, Bluebird is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

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