I cannot stop reading Attica Locke. I tore through her two previous books, Black Water Rising and The Cutting Season, earlier this year. I was first in line at my library to read Pleasantville when it was released last month. Now I guess I'll just have to find a way to live my life until she publishes another—which could be a while, I'm guessing, since she also has a gig writing for the TV show Empire. Isn't it annoying when people are multi-talented?
In Pleasantville, Locke returns to Houston, Texas and lovable but conflicted attorney Jay Porter of Black Water Rising. Fifteen years after the events of that book, Jay is a single father of two and his law practice hasn't exactly taken off. He's busy enough, but he still hasn't made any money on the big Cole Oil case he won years ago. The aimlessness Jay felt in the first book still hangs over him like a fog. He can't decide how involved he wants to get in the political controversies and local crises that surround him. People in the community look to him for guidance and approval, but Jay never knows how much of himself to offer. After all, now he is the only parent his kids have, and he is once again torn between responsibility to his family and to the larger social sphere around him.
And the latest local problem threatening to pull Jay under is one that hits close to home: a girl not much older than his daughter Ellie has been abducted from a street corner on Election Night, after circulating political flyers for one of the mayoral candidates. When the campaign manager is arrested and charged in her disappearance, Jay finds himself, as he often does, embroiled in the case against his will. He's definitely in over his head trying his first murder case, but just like in Black Water Rising, the corruption and malfeasance go up a lot higher than he ever suspected. Jay is going to have to do a lot more than find the person responsible for the girl's disappearance—he'll have to dig deep into election politics, the elite world of wealthy donors and corporate players, to make sure justice is served.
Locke's books remind me a bit of the TV show Scandal, in that they make politics heart-poundingly intense. In summary they can sound like a big snoozefest—who cares if someone is rigging a local mayoral race? Who cares whose money is filling which politicians' pockets? Who cares if someone looks the other way in order to gain power and clout? Locke will make you care about all of those things. She will make you care about them so much you won't be able to turn pages fast enough. Here's hoping she plans to write many more installments in the Jay Porter story.