Country Noir: Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

“That was the thing about second changes—it was impossible to know what was real or what wasn’t; every act of forgiveness was a leap of faith.”

Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is finally starting to get his life together after the events of Bluebird, Bluebird.  He is back on the job.  If it at a desk, the time home is allowing him to repair his relationship with his wife, and he is doing important work on a federal-state task force building a case against the Aryan Brotherhood.  His drinking is under control.  The only hitch is his no-account mother blackmailing him, but everything really goes to shit when a boy goes missing on the Texas-Louisiana border.

Heaven, My Home is the second book in Locke’s Highway 59 Mystery series.

A boy missing wouldn’t usually call for Darren’s services, but the kid’s dad is high-up in the Aryan Brotherhood.  His boss sees a chance to build a case fast—before a new administration takes over and federal law enforcement priorities change.  Darren sees a way out from continued questions by a tenacious San Jacinto DA.

9-year-old Levi King disappeared on Caddo Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border.  He made it back from the lake though—his grandfather’s boat is in the boatshed and a witness saw him return.  Darren steps right into the middle of a powder keg with a short, lit fuse—Levi lived amongst white supremacists squatting next to the remnants of a feedmen’s colony.

The nearest town is Jefferson, a once prosperous town now surviving on antebellum nostalgia tourism.  (Darren and presumably Attica share my dim view of this sort of thing; Tony Horwitz writes some about this stuff in his final book.)  Levi’s grandmother Rosemary has the town in a velvet-on-steel grip.  Darren isn’t quite at home; Jefferson is a long way from Camilla.

“Nothing about Marion County said home to him.  It was not his East Texas.  It was zydeco when he wanted blues.  It was boudin where he wanted hot links.  It was swampy cypress trees where he wanted pines.”

Attica’s writing is still just a bit off.  Characters dips snuff under his tongue (between lip and gum is bad enough!); a civil litigator has a hearing for a “deal” (litigators have frequent hearings, but deals are largely outside of court supervision and the purview of transactional lawyers).  There are disadvantages to writing country noir when you think small towns have “small, hard, provincial heart[s].”  There are greater disadvantages when you are that far removed from your setting.

Still, the strength of the Highway 59 books is Darren’s internal conflict, as embodied by a Texas Ranger uncle and his constitutional law professor uncle.  Here the conflict is less abstract and more concrete as Darren is faced with choices that bring real moral peril.  The plot is also a really solid mystery and much better than the first book—it is the plot that really carries Heaven, My Home for me and elevates it past Bluebird, Bluebird.

4 of 5 Stars.

 

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of Heaven, My Home via NetGalley.

 

More Reviews:

Kyra Leseberg on Heaven, My Home at Roots and Reads.

Paul on Heaven, My Home at Paul’s Picks.

Scott on Heaven, My Home at Mystery People.

Chris Oleson on Heaven, My home at Bookmuch.

 

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One thought on “Country Noir: Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

  1. Pingback: September 2019 Month-in-Review | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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