Find it at your library!

Nina Revoyr is a writer I really enjoy reading, and I wish her works were better known. It can be tough to find books that feature queer characters that go beyond coming out stories. Coming out stories certainly have their place, but it’s also important to me to read books about queer people living their lives and getting into interesting situations and, you know, being the people they are. In Southland, Revoyr has created a mystery/historical hybrid novel which explores complicated race relations in LA through the years, from World War II to the 2000s.

Jackie Ishida decides to dig into her grandfather’s past when a mysterious will discovered after his death bequeaths the corner store he used to own to a man Jackie has never heard of before. The store was sold after the Watts riots in the 1960s, but Jackie still wants to find out why Frank would have left it to a virtual stranger. Through connections she makes at the funeral, she meets James Lanier, the cousin of the man named in the will. Lanier has some unanswered questions of his own about what happened during the riots and what his cousin’s connection was to Jackie’s grandfather, and he agrees to help her find out the truth.

One thing I love about this book is how it’s really about the relationships—there’s a lot of them, and they’re all rich and complex and realistic. The mystery is solid and kept me turning pages, but what I cared about most was the people. The most powerful reveals had to do with the connections between them, as opposed to the nitty-gritty details of the crime Jackie and Lanier uncover. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and mysteries with substance—these characters and what they went through will stick with you.

Find it at your library!

I didn’t expect this to be one of the scarier books on my list this month. I’ve been getting into the Halloween spirit recently with some horror and thrillers, but I picked up this “rural noir” because Attica Locke is an automatic read for me and my turn came up on the library holds list. With Charlottesville fresh in my mind, however, this story of a small town infested with white supremacists was really freaking scary. It’s not like anyone can blithely claim that neo-Nazis are an extinct relic of the past after seeing them marching with tiki torches on the news.

Darren Matthews is a black Texas Ranger, and the innate conflict of that identity is always at the forefront of his mind. He knows there are people in his state that take issue with his calling it home. Others wonder why he would choose to stay in a place so poisoned by racist beliefs. While Darren admits it isn’t easy to stay, especially working in law enforcement, he believes deeply in his right to have a say in what Texas is. It’s his home too. Even though his home is a messed up place, as evidenced by a pair of murders Darren is investigating in a small town where the Aryan Brotherhood is alive and well.

As is often the case when I read thrillers, I found myself much more interested in Darren as a character than in the solving of the crimes. I like page-turning action as much as the next girl, but what stays with me after I’ve turned the last page is a compelling and complicated central character. Attica Locke did it before with Jay Porter in Black Water Rising and Pleasantville, and again with Caren Gray in The Cutting Season. I am criss-crossing my fingers and toes that she has more plans for Darren Matthews up her sleeve, because that ending opens the door to some drama that is just begging to be explored.