A Highway 59 Mystery - Book 1
I can count on one hand the number of crime novels I've read in the last five years at least. It's two. I'm talking about the ones that take place in the real world, with nothing fantastical about them. I always like them, but haven't been drawn to them since the days when my dad and I swapped Nelson DeMille novels.
I was glad to read this book. It's especially relevant today as it covers themes like race, hate, life in the rural South, and family. It's an intricate and complex book that feels all too real. I'm thankful it's set in the now, that it takes a deep look into today's racism without ignoring the many layers that can go into hate. The author does a fantastic job of vilifying the villains without creating stereotypes. She allows for the complexities of an individual to really contribute to her characters, whether they're good, bad, or somewhere in between.
Darren Matthews is a Texas Ranger (cop) with a drinking problem. A family friend stands trial for a murder without a weapon. Darren was the last to see the victim alive. Normally, no evidence would mean no trial but this is Texas, and there's a white man dead, possibly by black hands. It doesn't help matters that Darren is also African American. His loyalties might not be to the law. The lack of clarity in this situation means Darren is on probation, but he's not sitting still. Trouble finds him when he's asked to casually investigate two deaths in a nearby town -- that of a black man and a white woman.
The town is small and full of secrets. The dead man was an outsider. The woman had only recently had a baby. To say this is a complicated situation is a severe understatement. Floating at the center of all this confusion is Geneva and her restaurant, which has filled the bellies of black travellers for years. A widow, who also lost her son, Geneva has secrets of her own. There's a lot for Darren to dig through, but he's immediately in the middle, and on a mission for the whole truth.
Nothing is as it seems in this book. Yes, there's the underlying hate of racism, but it's not always the color of one's skin that inspires bad feelings. There's also who's kin to whom that gets tricky, fast. In the end, nothing about this story is simple.
What the author does so very well in this book is create characters. Each person we meet has such a deep backstory, whether they tell it all or not. Everyone's a little bit imperfect, a little dishonest. There are good and bad guys too, but most reside in a very grey area. I appreciated that nod of realism, that choice to not create fictional characters that got it all right or over-exemplified a stereotype out in the world today.
This is a powerful read that will keep you on your toes. It reminds you of what daily life is like in an area of our own country that hasn't caught up to the idea of loving everyone as their equal. These people don't carry kindness for everyone in their hearts. It's a story we can't forget. This is a book that makes you really think about people, love, and human connection. It timed out so well. I would highly recommend.