books

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Black Water Rising: A NovelPublisher’s Description:
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.

With pacing that captures the reader from the first scene through an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

I purchased this book at Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, when I dragged my colleagues on a $20 cab ride because I wanted to be sure to visit the iconic store during the AACSB Sustainability conference. I was looking for a literary mystery to read on the plane, and I had trepidation about this novel, but thought it was the best of those available. 

Part of my hesitation came from the setting – did I really want to read a book about Houston, an oil-rich city in Texas, especially during the BP oil spill? And a damaged lawyer trying to make right? Didn’t we have that in Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer?

The book first surprised me on page one, when a header to the opening chapter placed the events of the novel in 1981. Somehow that made it more interesting to me. The novel became even more interesting when it introduced Jay Porter, the lawyer-investigator, as having been involved in the 1960s Civil Rights movement. It was governmental shady dealings that led to his trial and that solidified his mistrust of police, FBI, and the government in general. The flashbacks to Jay’s days as a student organizer at the University of Houston were among my favorite passages in the book. 

While I thought Jay could have been a more strongly developed character, the book more than met my expectations, and I enjoyed that the denouement involved Jay learning that big industry is more corrupt and with less integrity than the government he feared. 
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