It was clear with the publication of Bluebird, Bluebird in 2017 that Attica Locke’s Highway 59 mystery series was going to be something special. This was further confirmed when this overdue author won the Best Novel Edgar Award for that gem of a book the following year. Since this was the same year I was awarded the Mystery Writers of America Raven Award, I was fortunate enough to be on-hand at the ceremony that year and there was no doubt that Locke was honored to received this recognition from her peers – especially given that the crime fiction community has been slower than most in recognizing the importance of diversity within the field. Today marks the release of the second novel in the Highway 59 series and there is no question that Heaven, My Home more than lives up to the promise of that earlier novel, expanding its impact on readers with of-the-moment commentary, another powerful and gripping criminal investigation, and some of the best prose language one will find in American literature today.
When last readers saw Texas Ranger Darren Mathews, he was picking up the pieces from a particularly grueling time in rural Lark, Texas. Heaven, My Home picks up very shortly afterwards and finds Mathews dealing with troubles back at home. The marriage that is so important to Darren is on shaky ground, just on the edge of an emotional precipice brought about by his own poor decisions. Meanwhile, his mother is manipulating him with some explosive information she obtained – information that could destroy Darren’s career, his reputation, and the lives of several others.
When the opportunity to work a case in Marion County, Texas arises, Darren finds himself wanting to help, but also knowing that by leaving he is putting everything else at risk. However, it turns out that those in charge want to place him within the vortex of the investigation not necessarily to discover the whereabouts of the missing boy, but rather to gain vital intel regarding the actions of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT). Readers know that Darren Mathews is a man who holds justice as a beacon and there is no way that he will do one without doing the other, all while also trying to salvage what is left of his own life.
Never one to shy away from potential controversy, Attica Locke forces this complex mystery to unfold against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s election as President. While other works in the crime fiction field have referenced this watershed moment in American political history, Heaven, My Home is likely the first to juxtapose it so skillfully beside dramatic moments that highlight and reflect the problematic and dangerous rhetoric of that administration.
Through it all, Attica Locke deepens the already intricate characterizations of her cast of characters. So real do these people feel that readers would be forgiven for expecting to hear updates about them on the local news broadcasts. And it is impossible to end this review without taking a moment to highlight Attica Locke’s lush writing and her ability to elicit emotion with precise word choice, sentence structure, and by varying the rhythm of language. Just as the title of this novel comes from the country-blues music native to the location, Attica Locke’s writing makes a music all its own, seducing the reader with each new lyrical flourish. Expect to see Heaven, My Home on “best of” and award lists in the coming months. Read it immediately and then join me in anxiously awaiting the next Highway 59 novel from the one and only Attica Locke.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.