Road Trip Out West

Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) by Attica Locke does not seem a likely title for a crime story.  It is not only a crime story, it is also a mystery, and also deals with local political issues, and racial tensions.

Author Attica Locke takes the reader, of this first in a new series, to the tiny town of Lark, Texas located on Hwy 59 in East Texas.  Lark is not a fun-filled tourist trap.  It does have a roadside café that is owned by Geneva Sweet where the local black folks come to eat.  The other well-known establishment is Jeff’s Juice House, a bar frequented by members of the Aryan Brotherhood (ABT).

Lark has recently come to the attention of Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger.  He was sent unofficially to Lark to quietly investigate two murders.  He does not wear his 5-point Ranger badge because he is under suspension for helping his old friend Mack that involves a missing thirty-eight revolver.

Darren grew up in East Texas and knows what is expected of him.  His twin uncles, Clayton and William were a great influence on Darren.  He still hears them saying, “Don’t give them a reason to stop you, son.”

It was because of his uncles Darren left Texas to attend Princeton.  After two years of law school, Darren made the decision to become a Texas Ranger.

Darren’s wife Lisa was not, and still is not, happy about that decision.  Life for this couple has hit some rough spot.  Agreeing to go to Lark is just one more chink in their marriage armor.  Fixing things with Lisa takes a backseat when Darren heads to Lark.

His arrival in Lark takes place shortly after 22-year-old Missy Dale’s body has washed up behind Geneva’s café.  Sheriff Van Horn shows up with three deputies.  Local law enforcement is not pleased when Texas Rangers show up and become involved with local problems. The young white woman is the second body taken from the bayou.  Three days earlier Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, was also found “drowned” in the bayou.  Coincidence?

Darren then made a trip to Jeff’s Juice House, the place where Missy had been working the night she was killed.  Being the only black man in the honky-tonk garnered him more than a few stares. Even more surprising to him was when a black woman stepped out of the lady’s restroom.  She looked even more out of place with her white cashmere coat.  Darren asked her if she needed help.

They both left, followed by one intimidating man.  Once outside Darren learned she was Randi Winston, fashion photographer and the wife of Michael Wright.

Now, that is your welcome to East Texas and the small-town denizens of Lark.

Knowing little about Texas, and East Texas in particular, I consulted our travel maps several times to follow the action on Hwy 59.  I liked Bluebird, Bluebird enough to read Heaven, My Home, the second in what should prove to be a good series.

Next on our trip out West is Wyoming.    Author C.J. Box does not need much of an introduction here in Tanglewood., especially his Joe Pickett novels, they fly off the shelves.  Vicious Circle (2017) is his 17th in this particular series.

Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming doing what he does best…tracking down poachers.  This novel finds Joe feeling a bit nervous about flying in the dark, just above the trees.  He is with pilot Bill Slaughter and art teacher, Gail Herdt, are both retired military and members of the Wyoming wing of Civil Air Patrol.

On this particular night they are looking for Dave Farkus, the local town drunk.  Two nights earlier Farkus had left Joe a message.  Dave had overheard a conversation about Joe and his family.

What the trio in the plane sees on the infrared screen appears to be a figure walking with 3 other figures closing in.  What they are watching is not a herd of elk moving through the snow.  “That’s when he noticed what appeared to be a star-shaped flash on the screen.  Then another one.  Then a staccato burst of flashes that were faint and distance and distinct.”  Joe was sure he had just witnessed a murder.

Dallas Cates, former champion bull rider, has just returned to town from prison.  Immediately Joe and others feel Dalla may be involved.  The Cates Family has quite a history in their hometown and with the Pickett Family.  The Cates Family blames Joe for Dallas being sent to prison.

Box does a good job of keeping those of us who have not read this series in the loop about the Cates/Pickett issues.  You will also get to know Joe’s family, friends, and neighbors, each of whom have their own parts to play. One friend in particular is Nate Romanowski, who has a special ops background and is a falconer.

If you like an action-filled tale, with characters that fit that action, you will find this a fast read.  I enjoyed this title even though I had only read a couple earlier titles in the series.  You will end up learning about Wyoming, a different way of life than most of us experience, and the environmental issues faced in that part of the country.  If Vicious Circle is not on the shelves, grab one of the other Joe Pickett books or anything by C.J. Box.

 

 

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