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When Houston lawyer Jay Porter responds to pressure from his wife and jumps into the bayou to rescue a drowning white woman during a birthday dinner cruise he'd planned, he has no idea of the hell he's about to enter. There's a murder nearby that same night. Jay suspects that the drowning woman was involved. Ominous threats convince him that it's bigger than just a simple murder and that the players go all the way to the top of Houston's business and political elite. Only by facing down the racially charged past that's been haunting him for years can Jay find it in himself to overcome his longstanding belief in keeping quiet instead of speaking up. Despite a slow start and a measured pace that fail to give the narrative the expected intensity, Locke's debut thriller ends in a satisfying whirlwind of drama. Deftly exploring social and economic themes during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, she balances Jay's current situation with flashbacks to his past as a student activist fighting for racial equality. Readers who enjoy Stephen Carter's thrillers (e.g., The Emperor of Ocean Park) will want to try. [Screenwriter Locke is currently working on an HBO miniseries about the Civil Rights Movement.-Ed.]-Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Jay Porter is far removed from his glory days as a black activist. Betrayed by a white lover, Jay was put on trial for murder and was facing life in prison when a lone black juror prevented his conviction. Now a struggling lawyer working out of an office in a strip mall, with a client list consisting mostly of call girls, Jay keeps his head down and worries constantly about making enough money to pay the bills, especially now that his wife is expecting their first child. Then a boat ride on Houston's Buffalo Bayou puts him at a crossroads when he encounters a drowning white woman. Scarred by his past, Jay is loath to intercede, but his wife convinces him to become involved. When Jay discovers the woman's connection to one of Houston's biggest players and to the corrupt practices of Big Oil, he must decide whether he has the courage to follow his instincts. First-novelist Locke presents a searing portrait of a man struggling to reconcile the bitterness of his life experiences with the idealism of his convictions. Like Dennis Lehane, she skillfully deploys the conventions of the thriller while also presenting biting social commentary, a sure sense of place, and soulful characters.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2009 Booklist
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Set in 1981, Locke's compelling if unwieldy debut charts the moral struggles of Jay Porter, a black lawyer in Houston, Tex. Porter, who knows far more about a murder near one of the city's bayous than do the police, doesn't want to come forward largely because of his own criminal past as well as a secret relationship with Houston's female mayor. Another reason is that Porter, having fought his way out of the ghetto, is now striving for a more comfortable lifestyle with his wife and new baby. Why get tangled up in a messy murder, even if it could mean preventing the conviction of an innocent person? Locke, a screenwriter with both film and TV credits (including a forthcoming HBO miniseries about the civil rights movement), steers a gritty drama to a satisfying end, though a sluggish subplot involving labor union issues undermines the novel's grander ambitions. A leaner, meaner version was an opportunity missed, yet Locke remains an author to watch. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved