Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Black Water Rising-Attica Locke

Black Water Rising
Attica Locke
Harper, Jun 2009, $25.99
ISBN 9780061735868

In 1981 Houston, black attorney Jay Porter has a lot of information on a recent homicide, but has several reasons not to share his knowledge with the cops. Besides not trusting the police, an offshoot of growing up in the city’s slums, Porter knows if he speaks up he goes under the spotlight, and he has a lot to hide. Back when he was nineteen in 1970 he was on trial for inciting a riot and for conspiracy to commit murder of a federal agent; he knows he was fortunate that there was a juror who lived near his future father-in-law’s church. He didn’t even know Bernie who is now his wife or her dad Reverend Boykins at that time, but they and his flock were there for him. He wants his felonious history to remain concealed and a tryst with Mayor Cynthia Maddox to stay secret as he is beginning to make it in the middle class and wants the best for his wife and their new child.

On the other hand, Porter also realizes by his silence, an innocent man is being condemned. Although his conscience bothers him, he weighs being the Good Samaritan against the impact on his family and his career.

This is a terrific historical legal thriller that brings to life Houston in 1981 as the civil rights movement remains strong but not quite as effective as it had been. Jay is a fabulous lead character as he decides to let the innocent dupe take the fall rather than challenge the city’s powerful, but each time he shaves his conscience bothers him. Although too many subplots that help anchor time and place take away from the main theme, sub-genre fans will enjoy this strong character driven tale as Jay has nothing to lose materially with silence, but everything to lose with speaking out.

Harriet Klausner