Bluebird, Bluebird
by Locke, Attica

Forced by duty to return to his racially divided East Texas hometown, an African-American Texas Ranger risks his job and reputation to investigate a highly charged double-murder case involving a black Chicago lawyer and a local white woman.

Attica Locke is the author of Pleasantville, which won the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and was long-listed for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction; Black Water Rising, which was nominated for an Edgar Award; and The Cutting Season, a national bestseller and winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. She was a writer and producer on the Fox drama Empire. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

The deaths of a black man from Chicago and a local white woman in Lark, a one-stoplight East Texas town, within days of each other, just have to be related events. The trouble is, no one in local law enforcement wants to connect the crimes. Then, when Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, shows up to conduct a more thorough investigation, Aryan Brotherhood-fueled bitterness erupts. Darren's passion for justice is heightened by a promise he makes to the first victim's widow, a gut feeling about the husband of victim number two, tenderness toward the black woman who runs the local café, and his own complicated family history. As Darren flirts with the bourbon bottle and Randie, he taps into his small-town Texas heritage and firsthand knowledge of racism to unearth buried memories of the town's long history of racially and romantically motivated crimes. A producer and writer for the acclaimed TV series Empire as well as an award-winning crime-fiction writer, Locke (Pleasantville, 2015) brings a cinematic polish to her tale of sordid violence bubbling in a Texas bayou backwater. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

What appears at first to be a double hate crime in a tiny Texas town turns out to be much more complicated—and more painful—than it seems.With a degree from Princeton and two years of law school under his belt, Darren Mathews could have easily taken his place among the elite of African-American attorneys. Instead, he followed his uncle's lead to become a Texas Ranger. "What is it about that damn badge?" his estranged wife, Lisa, asks. "It was never intended for you." Darren often wonders if she's right but nonetheless finds his badge useful "for working homicides with a racial element—murders with a particularly ugly taint." The East Texas town of Lark is small enough to drive through "in the time it [takes] to sneeze," but it's big enough to have had not one, but two such murders. One of the victims is a black lawyer from Chicago, the kind of crusader-advocate Darren could have been if he'd stayed on his original path; the other is a young white woman, a lo cal resident. Both battered bodies were found in a nearby bayou. His job already jeopardized by his role in a race-related murder case in another part of the state, Darren eases his way into Lark, where even his presence is enough to raise hackles among both the town's white and black residents; some of the latter, especially, seem reluctant and evasive in their conversations with him. Besides their mysterious resistance, Darren also has to deal with a hostile sheriff, the white supremacist husband of the dead woman, and the dead lawyer's moody widow, who flies into town with her own worst suspicions as to what her husband was doing down there. All the easily available facts imply some sordid business that could cause the whole town to explode. But the deeper Darren digs into the case, encountering lives steeped in his home state's musical and social history, the more he begins to distrust his professional—and personal—instincts. Locke, having stockpiled an accla i med array of crime novels (Pleasantville, 2015, etc.), deserves a career breakthrough for this deftly plotted whodunit whose writing pulses throughout with a raw, blues-inflected lyricism. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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