61 pages 2 hours read

Attica Locke

Bluebird, Bluebird

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) by Texas native Attica Locke, published by Little, Brown and Company, is a 2018 Edgar and Anthony award-winning mystery novel. It was also selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Kirkus Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2017. The first in the Highway 59 series follows Texas Ranger Darren Mathews through the backroads of Texas in search of justice and reform in the legal system. Locke herself a Texas native, is also a screenwriter and filmmaker. She is the author of five novels and is highly decorated with awards for literary excellence.

Plot Summary

The novel opens in Lark, Texas, in October of 2016 with Geneva Sweet attending to the graves of her husband, famous blues guitarist Joe “Petey Pie” Sweet, and son Lil’ Joe. Cut to a courtroom where Darren Mathews, a Black Texas Ranger, takes the stand to give an account of his involvement with his friend Mack’s confrontation with local white supremacist Ronnie Malvo. Darren hopes he has done enough to save his friend from an indictment, but the murder weapon is still missing, and Darren has problems of his own. He is suspended from duty, battling alcoholism, and is estranged from his wife. The case is personal for Darren, not just because of his friendship with Mack, but because Darren desires to stop all racially motivated crimes. This passion led him to abruptly end his pursuit of a law degree and become a Ranger, a decision not supported by his wife or his Uncle Clayton who raised him. When Darren receives a call from his FBI agent and friend Greg about a murder in Lark, Texas, with a possible connection to the white supremacist group the Aryan Brotherhood, Darren feels compelled to investigate despite his suspension.

Darren’s journey to Lark to seek answers for the death of a Black man and lawyer Michael Wright takes him into the heart of a small town and the depths of its secrets. When he unexpectedly runs into Wright’s widow Randie Winston, the two find themselves drawn to each other in the search for truth but also in their shared struggles. Darren discovers the answers to many of his questions can be found at Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, a local diner and social hub for the Black residents of Lark. When another body emerges, that of white waitress Missy Dale, the town simmers with rumors and speculation, and Darren is convinced the deaths are somehow connected, especially since Michael visited the local bar where Missy worked before he vanished. Through a nonlinear timeline full of flashbacks to the past, the complicated histories of Lark’s prominent residents are slowly revealed. Darren finds himself at odds with many of the white residents of Lark including the Sheriff Van Horn who resents his presence and Darren’s inquiries into his investigation. Wallace “Wally” Jefferson III, Lark’s wealthiest resident and owner of the icehouse, frequents Geneva’s café and quickly becomes suspect in Darren’s eyes. As Darren uncovers more inconsistencies in the Sheriff’s reports and local Black residents Tim, Huxley, Wendy, and the shifty barber Isaac reveal key details about the town’s history, Darren realizes solving the case will be complicated. Justice will only be found by unearthing a complex web of broken relationships, long-buried secrets, and illicit affairs between Lark’s residents.

Darren reviews the autopsy reports for both Missy Dale and Michael Wright, revealing Missy was strangled and Michael was savagely beaten with a wood board before drowning. Darren interviews Lynn the bartender at the icehouse and concludes Missy and Michael were murdered. Darren zeros in on Keith Dale, timber mill employee and husband of Missy Dale. After a violent confrontation with Darren, Keith confesses to killing Missy and beating Michael with his hands. He stopped short of using the wood boards in the back of his truck. Once Isaac is caught fleeing Wally’s compound in Michael’s stolen BMW and he confesses to killing Michael, the last piece of the puzzle is complete. Isaac also confesses to being an accomplice to Joe Sweet’s murder. Wally, whose father loved Geneva and bought the café for her, murdered Joe in a fit of rage and bitterness with Isaac as the only witness. For six years, Isaac carried the secret until Michael Wright came to town to deliver Joe’s long-lost guitar from Michael’s uncle, a former friend, and band member with Joe.

Geneva is finally able to rest knowing the truth of her husband’s death. Darren returns home to continue his career as a Ranger, but a part of his past returns in the form of his alcoholic mother holding Mack’s missing pistol. Darren’s future hangs in the balance to be continued in the second book of the series Heaven, My Home, published in 2019.

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