About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

(1. – 931.) Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke – After seeing Bluebird, Bluebird on many 2017 lists of best books and enjoying the reading of Black Water Rising I asked Santa for Bluebird, Bluebird and it was under the Christmas tree. I am glad I received the book. It is a wonderful book which has rightly propelled Locke into authorial superstardom.

It is a classic American Western with the lone lawman, Darren Mathews, fighting a powerful criminal gang. Mathews is a big man with a .45 on his hip and a 5 tipped star badge upon his chest riding into Lark, Texas in his Texas sized truck. Among contemporary Western American fictional lawmen I thought of Sheriff Walt Longmire from the series by Craig Johnson.

That the lawman is African American and the gang is the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas brings the old West into the 21st Century. Too often I find mysteries with a police officer acting on their own not credible but Locke has created a believable plot.

Making Mathews a Texas Ranger cements the iconic Western theme.

His family has deep roots in East Texas. They are a part of the black establishment of the region with a family home still at the center of their lives no matter where they work.

Continuing another Western tradition Mathews has a lovely wife back in Houston who, weary of worrying about her husband riding into danger, has demanded he leave the Rangers or she will leave the marriage.

Mathews thinks of resigning from the Rangers and returning to law school.

Yet he cannot resist the lure of solving a double murder in Lark. Michael Wright, a black man with roots in Texas, but now resident in Chicago, is found dead in a bayou outside Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, a country cafe. He has been brutally beaten. Two days Missy Dale, a young white woman, is found dead in the same bayou behind the same cafĂ©.

The story veers from the simple blacks and whites of Western lore into the complexity of racial relationships in the 21st Century of rural Texas.

The black residents know the local white sheriff, in a different American tradition, is looking to arrest one of them for the murder. Little effort will be made to investigate Michael’s death.

Mathews, a man of stubborn integrity, will not abide an investigation looking only for a black killer as resolution.

With the authority given him by his status as a Ranger he probes more deeply into the lives of white folk and black folk. What does not fit evil Southern tradition of exacting vengeance on black woman when a white woman is attacked is that the black man was killed before the white woman.

Locke shows the discomfort the white residents have with a black Ranger but equally the respect they have for his badge. The world of race relations is being turned upside down.

I have not even discussed the remarkable characters who fill the book. Just one will suffice to illustrate the superb characterization.

Geneva, almost 70 years old, grieves her husband Joe, murdered 6 years ago. The book opens with her visiting his grave:

Geneva Sweet ran an orange extension cord past Mayva Greenwood, Beloved Wife and Mother, May She Rest with Her Heavenly Father. Late morning sunlight pinpricked through the trees, dotting a constellation of lights on the blanket of pine needles as Geneva’s feet as she snaked the cord between Mayva’s sister and her husband, Leland, Father and Brother in Christ. She gave the cord a good tug, making her way up the modest hill, careful not to step on the graves themselves, only the well-worn grooves between the headstones, which were spaced at haphazard and odd angles, like the teeth of a pauper.

Locke has created a Western lawman for this century in Mathews. I hope Bluebird, Bluebird is the first in a series. I want to read more of his adventures.
Locke, Attica - (2016) - Pleasantville; (2017) - Black Water Rising and Wishing I had Read the Books in Order


  1. You've made a great case for the book Bill, maybe I'll give it another go. I tried reading it a couple of months ago and gave up...I just found it too didactic, with the story being lost amidst all the messaging which felt to me like it was being telegraphed in giant neon lights...but perhaps I was just in the wrong mood

    1. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. I did not find the book didactic. As the plot evolved I thought it more complex and subtler especially on white / black relationships. I would be interested in your reaction should you delve a little deeper into the book.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this one as much as you did, Bill. I do like Locke's writing style and, like you, I know a lot of people who think this book is outstanding. And it does sound like a very effective atmosphere and context for the story.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. While I have enjoyed Locke's legal mysteries Bluebird, Bluebird was a step up in her writing. Her next book is going to be a big event.

  3. This book sounds very interesting, Bill. I haven't been drawn to Attica Locke's books before now, but I think I would like to try this book.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think this is a book you could appreciate having grown up in the American South.

  4. I am so glad to hear that Santa listened to your request for a copy of this book, and that you liked it so much.

    I loved reading Bluebird, Bluebird for the reasons you outline; the writing, story and characters are superb. You will be glad to know that it was the first of a trilogy featuring Darren Matthews.

    Attica Locke says that her mother's maternal grandmother had a cafe for Black travelers like Geneva Sweet's. She is a great character and I wish I was in that cafe, partaking of its food.

    A friend in Houston loved this book, too. She said she has relatives who live in East Texas who couldn't believe that Barack Obama could be president nor that he graduated from Harvard. It's a region, like other areas of the U.S. South that still has not progressed much, with entrenched racism.

    I look forward to the next book, and may even buy it if it means I'll get it faster.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. It was interesting to learn Bluebird, Bluebird is the first in a trilogy and the information on Ms. Locke's family. I was not aware of that information.

      On East Texas attitudes, as with attitudes in every country, I am not surprised those attitudes exist.

  5. I keep meaning to read something by her - must get on with it!

    1. Moira: The legal mysteries are good. Bluebird, Bluebird is great.