Project: Catch Up On Review Backlog commences. No promises on the quality of my next ten or so reviews. I just want to get them done. (This will probably unfortunately result in subpar reviews for books that deserve much better.)
Let’s start with a book I finished over a month ago, Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke.
First things first, this book was incredibly well done. It’s a crime book set in Texas, featuring a black Texas Ranger as its protagonist. I knew that going in. I also knew that the author had previously said that her books were “too black and too Texas” for a lot of people, or some variation of that sentiment. None of that put me off. What I didn’t know going in is that this is essentially noir, albeit with a racial focus and Texan slant. And noir—with its tendency towards maudlin protagonists who continuously dig themselves into holes, and settings that dig into the worst of humanity, all the seedy underbellies—nearly always makes me feel gross on the inside. I don’t tend to read a lot of it, but I can appreciate it when well done.
Our main character is Darren Matthews, whose marriage is in trouble, and whose commitment to his job conflicts with nearly everything else in his life. Darren is fresh off being suspended over a racially motivated incident where his job performance was called into question, when a buddy in the FBI gives him a tip about two seemingly unconnected murders that happened within days of each other in a small Texas town off Highway 59, one a black man, and one a white woman. Darren isn’t supposed to be there, but goes anyway, and begins digging into the two murders, uncovering things that have been hidden for decades.
I can tell that this book is good because it kept me reading even despite noir not being my thing. Locke is a talented writer, with a gift for creating atmosphere. She also paints characters clearly with very few brush strokes, so to speak. The mystery was good, as well, and the book ended just open ended enough yet with closure that if I didn’t want to continue the series, I don’t have to. I haven’t made up my yet if I’m going to.
I’d recommend this, though, if you like crime thrillers and mysteries, because it was very different (despite the echoes of Marlowe, et al) to any crime thriller I’ve read before.
[3.5 stars rounded up for quality, though it’s not really my thing]
CBR Bingo: And So It Begins (Review the first book in a series.)
Read Harder Challenge 2018: A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author.