It’s 1996, 15 years after the events of Black Water Rising, and Jay Porter is still an attorney in Houston. Now a widower and a father of two, he’s made a career of helping people fight big corporations, usually involving environmental regulations, but since his wife’s death, he’s had a hard time getting motivated. He’s ready to call it quits.
Like Attica Locke’s other crime novels, Pleasantville explores race and society, this time with a focus on politics. The story begins on election night of 1996, when a young black woman named Alicia Nowell, who was working for a Houston mayoral campaign, disappears in the community of Pleasantville. Her disappearance is the third in this once prestigious black community. The other girls who disappeared were found dead a few days after their disappearance, so the clock is ticking.
The prime suspect in the Nowell disappearance is Neal Hathorne, grandson of the formidable Sam Hathorne and nephew of Axel Hathorne, who is hoping to become Houston’s first black mayor but must wait for a run-off election. Neal’s number was in Alicia’s pager, although he doesn’t remember ever meeting her, and there’s no record of her working for the Hathorne campaign. Jay is drawn into the case and called on to defend Neal
I’ve enjoyed all of Attica Locke’s books, and this was no exception. However, I did find that, like Black Water Rising, this book had a few more plot threads than I could comfortably keep track of, and the book as a whole is slightly less compelling than her earlier novels. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read Black Water Rising to understand this book, but there are some characters who reappear and references to the Cole Oil case from the earlier novel, and if I’d remembered those details, I might have had an easier time juggling the many threads. By the end of the book, the threads do come together in a way that I found pretty satisfying.