In this superb literary suspense novel, we are reminded that no good deed goes unpunished when African-American attorney Jay Porter rescues a drowning white woman. Set in Houston, Texas, in 1981, when the wounds of the Civil Rights Movement and its more radical Black Power cousin are still fresh, Jay discovers that his valiant (although grudging) rescue has involved him in a high-end murder case--several murders, in fact. When Jay is offered hush money to "forget everything," he is tempted to take it. After all, his wife is about to give birth to their first child, and he's tired of dealing with the petty thieves, prostitutes, and malcontents who make up his low-rent client list. A former radical himself, Jay is paranoid, not without reason; the government is still tapping his phone. Now a modern Everyman, the young attorney is not particularly brave or even all that honest. Jay is, though, a basically decent man who can't say no to his friends, regardless of what kind of trouble they've found themselves in.
Moving back and forth through time, Black Water Rising recalls the radical '60s, Reagan-era political corruption, the struggles between labor unions and big business, and the ongoing conflict between personal conscience and family commitment. In an author's note which could serve as required reading in a contemporary sociology class, Locke reveals the genesis of her brilliant debut novel, and the fact that her own father was a man much like Jay--and how much it eventually cost him. Publishers like to pepper their hype with words like "superlative," "auspicious," "universal," and "dazzling" (all used about this book), claims that are usually ignored. This time, though, they're absolutely right. If you only read one suspense novel this summer, make it Black Water Rising.