Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

JUST ONE LOOK

Suburban thriller from the prolific Coben (No Second Chance, 2002, etc.), about a perfect husband who disappears when a photo from the past shows up in the latest batch from the photomat.

Perfectly in love since their romantic meeting in France 15 years earlier, Jack and Grace Lawson are living the suburban dream: Windstar, Saab, daughter, son. He makes lots of money, she makes lots of art. There is a teeny flaw. Grace limps. It’s the scar she bears from the trauma she endured before the trip to France. There was this rock concert. Shots were fired. Panic. Deaths. Heroism. Cowardice. Badly mangled Grace made it out of a coma with a week or two of memory gone and a healthy dislike of big crowds. Suddenly the superperfect life she has built from the ruins has gone off the rails. Tucked in among a set of newly developed photos is a snap taken sometime in the ’80s. It shows a group of young people, possibly hip for the decade, and one of the lads, while hairier and callower, is clearly Jack. The insertion could only have been at the hands of the slacker in the Kodak kiosk, but he’s disappeared. And, upon viewing the photo, so has Jack, leaving Grace to ask that old reliable story-starting question: “Just who is this man I thought I knew?” Answers must be found quickly, for handsome Jack has been captured by a cold-blooded, sadistic, Korean killer and lies senseless in the boot of the stolen family minivan. Detective assistance comes from a rogue District Attorney, a wacky girlfriend, a lovelorn neighbor, a tough Jewish cop with a hole in his heart where his wife used to be, a shadowy, powerful mob guy whose son died at the rock concert, and possibly from Jimmy X, the rocker whose concert seems to have started the present subdivisional mayhem all those years ago.

Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-525-94791-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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Locke, having stockpiled an acclaimed array of crime novels (Pleasantville, 2015, etc.), deserves a career breakthrough for...

BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD

What appears at first to be a double hate crime in a tiny Texas town turns out to be much more complicated—and more painful—than it seems.

With a degree from Princeton and two years of law school under his belt, Darren Mathews could have easily taken his place among the elite of African-American attorneys. Instead, he followed his uncle’s lead to become a Texas Ranger. “What is it about that damn badge?” his estranged wife, Lisa, asks. “It was never intended for you.” Darren often wonders if she’s right but nonetheless finds his badge useful “for working homicides with a racial element—murders with a particularly ugly taint.” The East Texas town of Lark is small enough to drive through “in the time it [takes] to sneeze,” but it’s big enough to have had not one, but two such murders. One of the victims is a black lawyer from Chicago, the kind of crusader-advocate Darren could have been if he’d stayed on his original path; the other is a young white woman, a local resident. Both battered bodies were found in a nearby bayou. His job already jeopardized by his role in a race-related murder case in another part of the state, Darren eases his way into Lark, where even his presence is enough to raise hackles among both the town’s white and black residents; some of the latter, especially, seem reluctant and evasive in their conversations with him. Besides their mysterious resistance, Darren also has to deal with a hostile sheriff, the white supremacist husband of the dead woman, and the dead lawyer’s moody widow, who flies into town with her own worst suspicions as to what her husband was doing down there. All the easily available facts imply some sordid business that could cause the whole town to explode. But the deeper Darren digs into the case, encountering lives steeped in his home state’s musical and social history, the more he begins to distrust his professional—and personal—instincts.

Locke, having stockpiled an acclaimed array of crime novels (Pleasantville, 2015, etc.), deserves a career breakthrough for this deftly plotted whodunit whose writing pulses throughout with a raw, blues-inflected lyricism.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-36329-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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