Attica Locke’s BLACK WATER RISING

I think it is so amazing that BLACK WATER RISING by Attica Locke has been shortlisted for this year’s Orange Prize. So often good crime thrillers get ignored by major literary prizes despite the fact that the crime novel is often the best way to examine what is going on in our society. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book early last year from Derek Dryden from Better Read Than Dead aka @sydneybookbore. He had picked one up at the US-ABA Winter Institute in Salt Lake City. He thought I might like it and he was dead on.

This is an amazing debut by a writer we should all closely follow. She is a powerful new voice in American fiction. Set in Houston, Texas in 1981 the story centers on small-time lawyer Jay Porter. Porter was politically active during his college days but after being sold out by his friends and staring a long jail term in the face he now lives a paranoid existence trying to keep his head down. When he reluctantly helps a woman in distress he is dragged into a murder investigation which tangles Jay in the murky worlds of Big Oil, trade unions and city hall.

This is what a good legal or political thriller should be. It is about people trying to live their lives. It is about history and how it can haunt us. It is about the cities we live in where everything and everyone is connected. And no matter how hard you try to bury the truth something always bubbles to the surface.

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