By Attica Locke
Highway 59 is the forgotten route that connects the backwood towns across the state of Texas. It’s a place that time – and justice – seem to have forgotten. But then, two bodies wash up in a bayou outside the tiny town of Lark in three days: a poor local white girl, barely nineteen, and a well-to-do African-American lawyer from Chicago.Tweet
Darren Mathews is a black Texas Ranger who becomes involved in a case in the small town of Lark in which two people have recently been murdered. One is a black lawyer from out of town, the other a local white woman.
Initially I did not find the book easy to read, largely I think because the language (and also to some extent the sentence construction) used by blacks from the South is not particularly familiar to me. It is also a little slow at the start, largely because it is painstakingly setting the scene for what is about to happen, rather than jumping straight into the storyline. However, after this unhurried start, it rapidly escalates into an exciting book with a complex plot and numerous twists and turns. On the surface this is a crime novel but in reality it is so much more. A conventional thriller it definitely is not.
Designed to shock, this book achieves its aim although some of its impact has been mitigated as a result of revelations pertaining to the current political and racial climate in the US. In that sense it would have been more thought-provoking and challenging if it had come out 18 months ago. Set in modern day America it confronts racial discrimination and prejudice head on, with elements of white supremacy thrown into the mix. Assuming the prevailing attitudes in certain areas of the US are accurately depicted (and we are now becoming more aware that they probably are), it becomes very obvious that there is still a very major problem. Have we really moved forward at all from the days of To kill a Mocking Bird?
Apart from the slow start, the only issue I had with the book was that I needed a family tree of the small town’s residents in order to disentangle the various relationships. Trying to remember things like “who fathered who” in order to keep on top of the story was a fairly major undertaking.
I would definitely be interested in reading more from Attica Locke, who clearly has her finger on the pulse when it comes to racial controversy and is not scared to tackle it in a totally uncompromising fashion. She is also a great writer.
On the whole our group found the book really well written, gripping and really interesting about a part of the world of which we know nothing. The characters were believable - although the alcoholic and troubled cop cliche has been done a little too often now - and the story tensely plotted. Clearly the ending signals a sequel and we are looking forward to reading that and most of us would like to read her previous books too. We would thoroughly recommend the book to other book clubs and gave it an 8 out of 10 overall.
A black Ranger loses his badge and is close to suspension. Geneva Sweet's cafe in Lark attracts unwelcome attention when two murders take place in the vicinity. Darren is drawn in to the situation and, despite being unauthorised, untangles the threads of this messy situation. A hard hitting read gradually resolves the mystery but will his marriage survive?