Friday Book Whimsy: Bluebird, Bluebird

Goodreads or Pinterest or Google, or some other social medium that apparently tracks my reading habits, fed me information about a new book by author Attica Locke, called Heaven, My Home. It seems to be exactly what I like to read. However, I noticed it was second in a series called the Highway 59 Series. In and of itself, the name of that series would have caught my attention, because it just sounds cool. Highway 59 runs down the eastern part of Texas, from Texarkana to Houston, through some of the poorest and most racially charged areas of the state. I prefer to start a series with the first book, so I read Bluebird, Bluebird. Like the series name, the book title itself would have interested me.

Darren Matthews is a bit of a rarity in east Texas. He is black, well educated, and a Texas Ranger, a well-respected law enforcement agency in Texas. He is asked by an acquaintance to look into the murder of a black man and a white woman in a small town north of Houston on Highway 59. He is not well-received by the town’s white Aryan Nation, the town’s sheriff, or, surprisingly, the Black victim’s friends or family. To further his troubles, he is currently on suspension from his Ranger job as they investigate whether or not he lied under oath to help a friend who was being harassed on his property by a White racist. And then there is the drinking and and marital issues. All-in-all, Darren is having a tough time of it. Nevertheless, he is unwilling to let these suspicious deaths stay in the hands of the small-town White sheriff.

In addition to high praise for her debut novel, Black Water Rising, Attica Locke is a well-respected screenwriter and producer of a number of television programs. Sometimes I think that it’s difficult for authors to make the leap from screenwriting to novels, but Locke makes it look easy.

Her protagonist, Darren Matthews, is complex and severely flawed. Still, his earnestness about the treatment of the poor and Black people makes him forgivable, and even likable. There are clearly good guys and bad guys in the novel, but rather than being black and white, there is a lot of gray. And I’m not speaking about skin color.

While I had a bit of trouble getting into the novel at first, once the Texas Ranger got permission from his boss to work on the murders, things got very interesting.

I enjoyed the novel very much, and will certainly move onto the second in the series.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Cutting Season

Caren Gray grew up on Belle Vie, the Louisiana plantation where her mother worked as a cook and her great great great grandfather was a slave. The home has been in the Clancy family since the days when they owned slaves. Now she lives there with her young daughter, a single mother who manages the antebellum home which is now an historic venue.

One night a young Mexican woman who works cutting sugar cane for the Groveland Corporation next to Belle Vie is found with her throat slit. There is no apparent reason, and blame is quickly placed on one of the Belle Vie workers who is putting together a film documenting a murder that took place during the days of slavery. Caren is caught in the middle as it appears that her 9-year-old daughter might be a witness.

I have never read anything by the author, Attica Locke, but The Cutting Season won’t be the last novel of hers that I will read. She tells a good story, and I rather wish that Caren Gray would be an ongoing character, as I found her to be multidimensional and intensely interesting. I can’t imagine working someplace that had once owned my ancestor as a slave.

There were twists and turns in the storyline, and the ending was quite unexpected. I liked the joining of a mystery with a book with historical background.

This is the author’s second book, and I look forward to reading more.

Here is a link to the book.