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Thursday 8 October 2015

'Pleasantville' by Attica Locke

Published by Serpent's Tail,
15 April 2015.
ISBN 978-1-84668-948-2

The setting is Houston, USA in 1996.  The Pleasantville of the title is an upwardly mobile black community to the north of Houston and the occasion is the election for the city's mayor.  This is a political thriller packed with references to actual events and attitudes particularly in relation to Afro-American history.

The race is between Axel Hathorne, African-American former police chief and Sandy Wolcott, white woman and the current DA for Houston.  Pleasantville matters in political terms because it has a minority electorate that can swing the polls.  Lawyer Jay Porter is involved with a complex case defending those affected by a company that has polluted land.  He is then asked to defend a man accused of murder when a girl wearing the blue shirt of the team promoting Axel disappears; eventually her body is found.  The man accused is an aide to Axel, indeed he is Axel's nephew.

The plotting of this book is excellent as Attica Locke combines Jay Porter's work in the corporate pollution suit with the death of the girl canvasser and two previous unsolved murders of young girls. Jay also has to look after his two children and is still recovering from the death of his wife.  The whole thing climaxes in a cleverly presented trial.  The lengths to which people will go to achieve and retain power are revealed.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is Attica Locke's third novel - in the first, Black Water Rising, which is set in the 1980s, lawyer Jay Porter also featured.

Attica Locke’s first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize in the UK (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction). Her second book, The Cutting Season, published by Dennis Lehane books, is a national bestseller, and is a winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Locke was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab. She’s written scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and HBO, and is a writer and producer of the Fox drama, Empire.
A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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