Sooooooooo. This is mixed. Not mixed in the way like that everything about it was neutral to me. Mixed in the way that some things about it were neutral to me, some things about it I loved so, so hard, and all of me thinks Attica Locke’s second book sounds m.f. amazing and I want to read it. I realize that is a very specific kind of mixed, but I want y’all to know exactly where my head’s at.
Jay Porter is a lawyer and one-time civil rights worker in 1980s Houston. When he and his pregnant wife help out a white woman in danger, they quickly find themselves in peril. There’s, like, conspiracies that go all the way to the top? And then union disputes? And some flashbacks to when Jay Porter was a hotheaded young civil rights guy chillin with Stokely Carmichael. If this sounds like a lot of different things in one book, it is because it is really too many things for one book.
So that’s one thing that I didn’t love. The book just has so much stuff going on. Too much stuff for me, and I am a girl who is perpetually trying to talk everyone into The Vampire Diaries by assuring them enthusiastically that a lot of stuff happens (my God a lot of stuff happens in that show). In particular: Jay’s working with the mayor, with whom he has a History, to help resolve a labor dispute between some members of his father-in-law’s church and the white members of the union. This plotline isn’t unrelated to the rest of the book, but it’s not that interesting because there isn’t enough space for it. Plus it detracts from the other, more interesting plotline by taking space away from that one. It made me feel a bit like Attica Locke didn’t know where she really wanted to aim me.
The more interesting story is about the white woman Jay and his wife help out. The day after they help her, they discover that a man has been found shot twice (on the night in question they heard two shots fired) not far from where they found the woman. Fearful that he — a black professional in 1980s Houston with a criminal record from his college days — will be accused in the crime, Jay is reluctant to go to the police. But his sense of justice doesn’t let him leave the story alone, and he finds himself more and more deeply enmeshed in the situation that unfolds, and less and less able to extract himself.
All the racial stuff was fantastic, I thought, from the tension at the white woman’s initial appearance, to Jay’s reluctance to engage with the police unnecessarily, to his parents’ tragic backstory, to the backstory about Jay and civil rights and the Black Panthers (slightly teachery but exciting for me because I knew all those facts already from that time I read some books about the Black Panthers) — none of it was done in too-broad strokes or milked for moar feelings than it deserved. This is what kept me reading when parts of the plot bogged down a little, and I’m really really really excited about Attica Locke’s second book, a mystery about a black woman who runs a plantation house in modern-day Louisiana (my hooooome state!).
The other reviews are numerous. Here they all are.