Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Attica Locke's latest, Pleasantville.
It's 1996 and Houston is in the midst of a heated campaign that could result in its first black mayor: Pleasantville's own Axel Hathorne. When a Pleasantville girl goes missing while reportedly working for the campaign itself, though, things turn sour quickly. Hathorne's team denies any connection to the girl, claiming she was never an employee and definitely wasn't out on campaign business when she disappeared, but that doesn't keep Hathorne's team clear of suspicion.
Jay Porter has been representing the people of Pleasantville in a big case against a nearby chemical plant. It's his only case at the moment and he plans to keep it that way; Porter aims to retire once the case has wrapped up. But the missing girl isn't the first to disappear in the area and when his clients ask for his assistance, Jay can't help but become involved even if it means once again returning to the courtroom.
Locke's latest involves everything from politics and race relations to environmental issues and, of course, a mystery. And this isn't her first Porter tale. Porter's previous outing, Black Water Rising, released in 2009 and was nominated for a number of awards including the Edgar. No worries, though, Pleasantville easily works as a stand alone.
The family dynamic is a big part of this story - not only in terms of the main plot, but for our lead character in particular. Jay's wife died while he was working a big trial and he's been plagued by guilt ever since. It's prompted his desire for retirement and his attempts to keep even his latest case (the one against the chemical plant) out of court. He's now a single father raising a teenage daughter and a young son. The relationships between the three, and between Jay and his friends, colleagues, and clients are all incredibly well drawn, adding further texture and substance to the story as a whole.
And yes, there's a lot of politics in Pleasantville. If you've ever read Locke (and I definitely suggest that you do, you can read my review of The Cutting Season here) then you'll know that this is to be expected. Fortunately, the politics don't overwhelm the story as a whole - and by that I mean a. you don't have to be an expert on regional politics and b. at no point does the story become dry or bogged down by this element of the book. Not at all, in fact. Locke does a fabulous job of weaving these aspects into the story while still maintaining a pacing and momentum that any suspense fan can appreciate.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on Locke and her work, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
Bonus: Locke is on NPR today talking about the book.