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by Attica Locke

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From Attica Locke, a writer and producer of FOX’s Empire, this sophisticated thriller sees lawyer Jay Porter—hero of her bestseller Black Water Rising—return to fight one last case, only to become embroiled in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how

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From Attica Locke, a writer and producer of FOX’s Empire, this sophisticated thriller sees lawyer Jay Porter—hero of her bestseller Black Water Rising—return to fight one last case, only to become embroiled in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.

Fifteen years after his career-defining case against Cole Oil, Jay Porter is broke and tired. That victory might have won the environmental lawyer fame, but thanks to a string of appeals, he hasn't seen a dime. His latest case—representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire—is dragging on, shaking his confidence and raising doubts about him within this upwardly mobile black community on Houston's north side. Though Jay still believes in doing what's right, he is done fighting other people's battles. Once he has his piece of the settlement, the single father is going to devote himself to what matters most—his children.

His plans are abruptly derailed when a female campaign volunteer vanishes on the night of Houston's mayoral election, throwing an already contentious campaign into chaos. The accused is none other than the nephew and campaign manager of one of the leading candidates—a scion of a prominent Houston family headed by the formidable Sam Hathorne. Despite all the signs suggesting that his client is guilty—and his own misgivings—Jay can't refuse when a man as wealthy and connected as Sam asks him to head up the defense. Not if he wants that new life with his kids. But he has to win.

Plunging into a shadowy world of ambitious enemies and treacherous allies armed with money, lies, and secrets, Jay reluctantly takes on his first murder trial—a case that will put him and his client, and an entire political process, on trial.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Locke’s gripping thriller opens on election night 1996, when a teenage girl disappears from Pleasantville, a predominantly black Houston suburb. Her body is found, raising eerie comparisons to two other unsolved murders, and attorney Jay Porter, introduced in 2009’s Black Water Rising, reluctantly agrees to represent murder suspect Neal Hathorne. Neal, the grandson of Pleasantville power broker Sam Hathorne, is campaign manager for his uncle, who’s facing a run-off mayoral election against the district attorney whose office is prosecuting Neal—raising the possibility that the murder charge, based on flimsy evidence, is a political stunt. Jay, a former civil rights activist struggling to keep his law practice afloat, navigates a convoluted maze of dark money, family secrets, and high-powered manipulation that threatens his and his loved ones’ safety. Locke rushes her treatment of the murders and a subplot about the pregnancy of Jay’s teenage daughter’s best friend, but the twist-filled plot will keep readers eagerly turning the pages. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Apr.)
Starred Booklist
“Locke, a sharp and gifted writer, delivers a complex, suspenseful legal thriller that offers a sophisticated appraisal of our deeply flawed political process, one that is likely to resound with readers.”
New York Times
“The impressively astute Attica Locke writes . . . in much the same way that Mr. Lehane [does]. . . . Each is willing to use the murder mystery as a framework for much more ambitious, atmospheric fiction.”
Los Angeles Times
“Compelling. . . . A mystery that expands the whole idea of the mystery, reaching from the present deeply into the past. . . . Great writing, the kind that gives you goose bumps.”
George Pelecanos
Black Water Rising is a stylish, involving literary thriller with a strong emphasis on human politics and character. An auspicious debut from Attica Locke.”
Dennis Lehane
“I was first struck by Attica Locke’s prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. . . . I’d probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine.”
USA Today
“Dripping with southern Gothic atmosphere. . . . Equal parts murder mystery and family drama, the novel also draws readers in through its considerations of African-American history and life in post-Katrina Louisiana.”
New York Times Book Review
“Absorbing. . . . As she managed to do so well in her first novel, Black Water Rising, Locke draws on the past to remind her characters how much it has shaped their identities and how much it continues to shape the choices they make.”
“[A] haunting mystery, where the murder of a migrant worker brings past and present into hair’s–breadth proximity. ”
Amy Brozio-Andrews
Locke makes every scene count with a complex plot that unfolds surprises at every turn and packs a satisfying conclusion.... Highly recommended for fans of fast-paced mysteries with strong geographic angles and appealing underdogs.
“This taut thriller. . . is knitted with enough shock and awe and backroom politics to keep you reading and guessing all weekend long.”
Seattle Times
“A nuanced and empathetic look at the unequal, contentious social layers of Houston’s African-American population.”
Wall Street Journal
“Outstanding…. Ms. Locke elegantly parcels out key information about her characters one piece at a time.”
Associated Press Staff
“Compelling.... Locke, a writer and co-producer of the Fox drama “Empire,” gracefully melds politics and racial issues with greed and a family rooted in secrecy for a gripping, believable plot.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Locke knows how to craft a thrilling story…. With Pleasantville she’s crafted a legal thriller that shifts between personal tragedy and political corruption always with an eye on the subtle detail or the big reveal.”
Wall Street Journal Best Books of the Year
“Stellar…. As is Ms. Locke’s creative wont, the crimes at hand prove a mere prelude to darker deeds.”
Library Journal
★ 04/01/2015
Jay Porter is winding down his law career—it's time, he thinks; his wife has died, progress on one of his last big cases seems to have slowed to a crawl via court appeals, and he's lost the fire to ever set foot in a courtroom again. But when the scion of one of Pleasantville's founding families is charged with murder after a teenage campaign worker disappears on election night, Jay can't quite help himself. With only the slightest push from Pleasantville's elite, he is suddenly defending a criminal case that intersects election law, too. Jay's Hail Mary in the case unearths more than he, or any of Pleasantville's residents, had bargained for. Locke's third book and the second featuring the deeply sympathetic Jay Porter (Black River Rising) is an enthralling multilayered thriller that captures the zeitgeist of a shifting sociopolitical landscape in a historically black suburban community in Texas in the mid-1990s. Locke makes every scene count with a complex plot that unfolds surprises at every turn and packs a satisfying conclusion. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of fast-paced mysteries with strong geographic angles and appealing underdogs. [See Prepub Alert, 10/13/14.]—Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews
Race, politics and petty grievances muddy the quest for justice when a young election volunteer is kidnapped and murdered.On election night 1996, in the primarily African-American area of Pleasantville, in the north of Houston, a young woman named Alicia Nowell is chased by a mystery figure. That same night, the home of attorney Jay Porter (Black Water Rising, 2009) is broken into. The police are blasé. After they leave, a young intruder comes out of hiding. Jay brandishes his gun but allows the kid to get away. In the absence of a clear election winner, a runoff pits Jay's candidate, former police chief Axel Hathorne, against Sandy Wolcott, a "political upstart."Jay attends a community meeting about the missing girl, who's the third one in recent memory, though the police haven't aggressively investigated the earlier two. He's particularly worried because he's raising his teenage daughter, Ellie, as a single parent. Everyone is surprised when Axel's nephew Neal is arrested. Jay agrees to represent him, and his investigator, Lonnie, learns that the police are monitoring hotheaded Alonzo Hollis as a person of interest. As Jay begins to track Hollis, the wheels of justice turn, and Alicia's body is found. Former Houston mayor Cynthia Maddox, who may have higher ambitions, arrives with Secret Service protection to urge Jay to drop the case. Instead of complying, he prepares for the trial, which unfolds with methodical precision, the final picture taking shape piece by piece. The killer's identity is a genuine surprise. A thriller wrapped in an involving story of community and family dynamics. Locke serves up a panorama of nuanced characters and writes with intelligence and depth.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Jay Porter Series, #2
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

Attica Locke is the author of Black Water Rising, which was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize, and also the national bestseller The Cutting Season, which won an Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. She is a producer and writer on the Fox drama Empire. She is on the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, where she lives.

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Pleasantville 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5 Star story... power, influence, politics, and advocacy. Attica created an engrossing story superdly told, full of flawed people, a troubled champion, southern charm and a poltical campaign. Jay Porter is great down to his ethics, honor, and intelligence. I loved the way the mystery rlevations unfold in this book. I really appreciated the author's attention to the dynamics of family, community, and policy. Buy it, read it,and then share it. 
JeannieWalker More than 1 year ago
Evil is all around us, even in a small town like Pleasantville where retired army men and other professionals made their home after World War II. A young girl who was a volunteer handing out political flyers for an upcoming election disappears, and someone who may be innocent is charged with murder. Can Jay Porter successfully defend his client, or is he too rusty from just managing older cases? Forget about the fact that he is broke. He is also tired from strings of appeals that haven’t gotten him a plug nickel.This thriller has a little bit of everything in it, along with some secrets of someone who was well-loved in the community.The setting was in Texas, but this sort of thing could happen anywhere.In my humble opinion, any novel written by Attica Locke is a good one. She has talent that is hard to beat.Jeannie Walker (Award-Winning Author) "Fighting the Devil" - A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison, and Murder
Twink More than 1 year ago
3.5/5  l read and enjoyed Attica Locke's second novel, The Cutting Season, a few years ago. (my review) But, I hadn't read her first book Black Water Rising featuring attorney Jay Porter. Porter returns in Locke's newest book Pleasantville. 1996. A young girl goes missing after a night of handing out flyers in the Houston neighbourhood of Pleasantville. Two other young women have been killed on the streets in the near past, but the crimes remain unsolved. There's also a fierce electoral race running for the mayor of Houston -  and Pleasantville has put forward a candidate. When a family member of the local candidate is arrested for the murder of this last girl, Jay is brought in to defend him. But is he guilty or is the accusation a political tactic? I enjoyed Jay as a lead character. He's not a perfect man, but he's trying his best as a single father. He's also struggling with doing the right thing for his clients in the class action suit from Black Water Rising, but is growing tired of it all. Locke has penned a complex political/legal thriller, with the murder part of the plot taking a back seat. It's very well written.  But, I found myself having to put it down every so often as the plot has so many myriad threads and players that I started to glaze over.  I found the first part of the book slow going, but things picked up as the action moved into the courtroom. This is a personal bias though, as I find political machinations tedious. But, that being said, Locke's plotting is also excellent - and somewhat frightening. I honestly think that what she has presented in a fictional setting has its roots in reality - and corruption. Locke explores that theme, as well as family, class and race with a deft hand.  It was only on reading the author's notes that I discovered that Pleasantville is an actual place in Texas. I wonder how much of Locke's story is based on fact?
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings The sequel to Black Water RIsing that centers around a man who has now be widowed and must raise his two children while still keeping up his fight for equality for him and his neighbors. This book takes place 15 years after the first one and Jay is still embroiled into the case from the first book, but also has new adventures in store for this one. I liked this book better than the first. I felt like the flow for this book was overall better. I also loved how all of the little stories were creatively connected. I felt as though there was the larger political story and then the missing girl and they were both so perfectly aligned - they fit well together.
mshoni More than 1 year ago
Lawyer Jay Porter is back after his introduction in Locke’s first book, Black Water Rising, where he tackled a murder case that found him embroiled in environmental politics and changed his life. Pleasantville picks up a few years later and Jay has become somewhat of a go-to lawyer for citizens in their fight against the dumping of chemicals in their neighborhoods. Pleasantville, a predominately African-American neighborhood in Houston, Texas (in real life and in the book), is currently being represented in a lawsuit against a company that caused a chemical fire near their homes. On the eve of a mayoral election, a campaign volunteer goes missing Jay finds himself reluctantly involved in finding out what happened to her. Attica Locke writes super-layered novels, so it’s almost impossible to cover everything in this review. Grief, greed, politics, environmental racism…it’s all here. What I love best about Pleasantville, and her other books, is that I never have a clue about who’s behind the mystery until she reveals it to me. The last pages of the book move at a lightning speed that will have your heart racing and tuning out everything else around you.