Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke review – racial tensions in small-town Texas


A black investigator’s quest for justice drives this nuanced meditation on race, roots and belonging

Locke’s mesmerising new novel bears all the hallmarks of modern crime fiction: the alcoholic protagonist with the damaged marriage; the townsfolk who close rank against outsiders; the small-town law enforcement agent with murky loyalties. But Bluebird, Bluebird is a true original in the way it twists these conventions into a narrative of exhilarating immediacy.

Darren Matthews is a Texas Ranger, working in a division of state law enforcement tasked with investigating everything from political corruption to murder. He is also a black man who must negotiate these two often conflicting identities: “He got confused sometimes, on which side of the law he belonged, couldn’t always remember when it was safe for a black man to follow the rules.” As a native of East Texas, with strong ties to home, Darren offers aid to an old friend, a move that jeopardises both his marriage and the job he loves. It is while on suspension from the force that he learns two bodies have washed up in the bayou in the tiny town of Lark – the first, that of a black male lawyer from Chicago, the second, of a local white waitress. These grisly discoveries lead him into an investigation that ultimately threatens all he holds sacred.

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