A distant memory - Page 2

In Attica Locke's Black Water Rising, the surprises extend beyond suspense
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Simultaneously he tries to uncover the identity of the mysterious woman he saved.

This is the one drawback in an otherwise stellar debut. Jay Porter has too much going on. So much that suspension of belief is pulled to the breaking point. So much that many characters who are vital to the plot get unbelievably overlooked. When the Porters' home is burglarized, for example, Jay leaves his pregnant wife in the house to pursue a lead on one of his cases. When a tough offers Porter money to not pursue another lead, he does it anyway — out of, what, morbid curiosity? The mayor of Houston and many of the other characters are so full, rich, and singular that it is baffling and frustrating when someone as essential as Bernie becomes a bit player in Jay's solipsistic pursuit. Is Jay Porter crazy, or just an asshole?

Black Water Rising reads like a hard-boiled thriller, but the real trick resides in Locke's ability to personalize an overlooked part of American history and show how far-reaching, how entrenched, it is in today's social, political, and cultural fabric. From running the voodoo down on the Weather Underground to using 1980s Houston as a backdrop, he wraps a People's History of America in a digestible, entertaining package. There are whiffs of Chinatown and White Butterfly, sure, but Locke's attention to the details between the action makes the novel, and turns every reader into an oracle.

As Jay solves this book's mysteries, we see pre-Dubya America getting dubbed. We see the sprawl that is yet to be. We see the unions breaking, the factories shutting down, the diners, bars, and cafes closing. We see the Black Water Rising. I may not want to see too much more of Jay Porter, but I better see more of Attica Locke.

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