Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Black Water Rising by Attica Locke. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

by
Non-series

Harper (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-173586-8 (0061735868)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-173586-8 (9780061735868)
Publication Date: June 2009
List Price: $25.99

Review: If you enjoy reading about the struggles faced by African Americans in the 1960s and the prejudice and discrimination that they still face in the 1980s, then Black Water Rising is the novel for you. Black Water Rising is the first novel written by Attica Locke. The inspiration for her novel comes from a real life incident, which happened to her father, Gene Locke, a Houston attorney. Gene heard gunshots and screams, but chose not to investigate them in order to stay and protect his wife, and his ten-year-old daughter Attica.

Jay Porter is a struggling African American lawyer who lives in Houston in the early 1980s. His clients often pay him in trade instead of cash, and he takes many cases for little or no money. One such “fee” was a boat ride on the bayou and dinner for two. The boat turns out to be barely afloat, but he and his pregnant wife Bernadine embark on the “cruise” anyway. As they journey down the bayou they hear screams and several gunshots. Moments later, Jay fishes a young woman out of the water. She refuses to give him any information and he drops her off at the police department. Jay himself does not accompany her into the police department because of his brush with the law in the 1960s. The story continues with Jay trying to find out who the mysterious woman is, and then it flashes back to his “civil rights” days when he was put on trial for “inciting a riot.” Meanwhile, the African American dockworkers of Houston are ready to go on strike because they are underpaid and not represented in management. Violence erupts and Jay is called on to represent the dockworkers. Add to this, the mayor of Houston is a former girlfriend of Jay’s from the 1960s. Will the dockworkers get better pay and more representation in management? Will Jay find out who the mysterious woman is, and if she is responsible for the death of a local man? Will his former lover help him solve the mystery or look out for herself?

This book was perplexing at times. I had a hard time following the jumps from the 1980s to the 1960s. His former girlfriend was white, something the reader was not able to figure out until halfway through the novel. His wife, Bernie, was given very little importance, and instead the focus was more on his former flame from the sixties. The characters as a whole needed to be developed further. As a reader, I did not really care about what happened to them until I was halfway through the book. The description of the dockworkers’ pay issues was unclear and also confusing in parts. If I were to rate this book, I would give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars. It took too long for me to want to continue reading this novel.

Special thanks to Ruth Miller for contributing her review of Black Water Rising and to HarperCollins for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Ruth Miller — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he's long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora's box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston's corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

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