Attica Locke, winner of the 2016 Harper Lee Prize, has a complicated relationship with the Lone Star State. Born and raised in Houston, where she’s set her powerful fourth novel, Bluebird, Bluebird, Locke—like her protagonist, Texas Ranger Darren Mathews—is an African American acutely aware of the state’s troubled racial history. That’s the rich theme she taps in this first entry in a series featuring Mathews, who ten years earlier cut short his law school education in Chicago to return to East Texas with a dream of crushing the Aryan Brotherhood there. Now he’s investigating a pair of murders that may be hate crimes. Along the way, Mathews chows down on some homemade cooking courtesy of Geneva, the roadside café owner who knows where all the bodies are buried; takes more than a few fortifying trips to local watering holes; and is sorely tempted to cheat on his wife with a victim’s widow. Locke is a master of plot who’s honed her craft not only in the literary arena, but also as a writer and producer of TV’s hip-hop soap opera Empire. The deepest pleasures to be found in Bluebird, Bluebird, though, are in her renderings of those who’ve loved and lost but still want to believe in the world’s benevolence.
— Leigh Haber