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Publisher's Summary

Writing in the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Greg Iles, Attica Locke, a powerful new voice in American fiction, delivers a brilliant debut thriller that readers will not soon forget.

Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he's long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning - and opens a Pandora's box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston's corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

With pacing that captures the reader from the first scene through an exhilarating climax, Black Water Rising marks the arrival of an electrifying new talent.

©2009 Attica Locke; (P)2009 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 09-21-12

Promising Young Writer

After listening to Attica Locke's excellent 2nd mystery, "The Cutting Season," I went back to try this one, her first. ""Black Water Rising" is completely different - more of the noir school, which is usually not my favorite sort of mystery.

But this is good! Really good. Set in 1980's Houston, "Black Water Rising" is just as atmospheric and dangerous as the title suggests. Our main character has a past in the black-power movement, and that affects just about his every thought and act. He's now burned and disillusioned and determined to avoid trouble and politics, but he keeps getting pulled back in, sometimes simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The book is very much from his point of view. There are other characters of interest (I wish we knew more about his wife's thoughts and feelings, for example), but Jay Porter definitely carries the book well. There's lots of action and suspense, and all the diverse and complicated plot lines come together in believable ways. I was completely drawn into this world.

This narrator is flat out wonderful! His voice is pure velvet and adds a lot to the experience.




19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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A Remarkable Story Teller

What made the experience of listening to Black Water Rising the most enjoyable?

It started out with one of the best first chapters I have ever read. I was hooked immediately. The setting is 1981 in Houston, TX. The main character, Jay Porter, is a young black lawyer just scraping by with small jobs. His father-in-law gets Jay involved with the representation of the black harbor workers that vote to go on strike. There is some conflict with the separate white union. This is a complex story that has some back and forth in Jay's history, but it all comes together to make the story more complete. For her first book, Attica Locke is a very accomplished story teller with pacing and fun dialog. I must also point out that this story has a theme of racism running through it that rings true to the time and circumstances. If Attica is named after Atticus Finch, she is living up to her name.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

This is not your standard mystery / thriller, but the story is compelling and scary at times. I found the story very credible and some of the political back story was very timely with our political and financial situation today. I was constantly thinking about the story when I didn't have time to listen. I couldn't wait to hear what happened next.

What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I recognized Dion Graham from some of his acting roles, especially in one of my favorite series, "The Wire". He did a wonderful job with the narration and made the main character, Jay Porter, come to life in my mind.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Definitely.

Any additional comments?

I never buy actual books anymore, but I had to add a first edition hard copy of this book to my library because this new author is going to be a huge success as she gets more books in front of readers. I can't wait to read the next book by Attica Locke.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Compelling period story

I enjoyed this book so much that I checked back to see if there were any other books available by Attica Locke, and happened to read the review from August 9. I felt compelled to respond. It may be that the reviewer was not alive during the time the story took place, so could not relate to the historical context and issues, or was so familiar with them that they needed no explanation. Either way I suppose that this means that the author failed in making the period seem real for that reviewer in her fiction. By the same token, it may be that I found the story immensely compelling for the reason that I was a young teenager at that time, and the events, people, issues and context of the time are alive and well in my sub-conscious, though I paid little enough attention to them at the time. I thought the political movements, labor union issues and “other stuff” added context and weight to the plot, and the book would have been lightweight without them. I thought the book superb, and I hope that readers are not put off this book by that review.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Compelling Blend of Race, Politics, and History

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the blending of historical and political perspectives. Jay's struggles and worries were compelling. The characters had debth and I really liked the reality of his relationship with his wife.

What does Dion Graham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Dion gave Jay's turmoil and fears life... He lifted up Jay's pride in being an organizer and belonging to something greater than himself. He did a great job leading us through the many turns of this story.

Any additional comments?

I wanted more... more... more. I wish there was a bit more story to wrap up the path Jay takes at the end.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Best of both social history and mystery

What did you like best about this story?

The best thing about a good mystery is how patterns start to emerge from the stew of details; the best thing about a social history is how a seemingly small and insignificant event can be shown as crucial to larger historical processes. This book delivers both.

Any additional comments?

And what an amazing reader!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 02-02-17

As Good as Genre Gets

Any additional comments?

It’s the early 1980s, and Jay Porter is in a dark place. A decade before, he was an outspoken leader in the African-American student movement. Following a betrayal and a few years in school, he’s built a new life as a lawyer and an expectant father. He’s lost the passion of his younger years, and he’s taking sleazy, two-bit cases. He thinks he knows who he is, but a part of him feels he’s let down the idealism that launched him. Then, on a boat trip in the Houston Bayou, he comes across a woman running for her life, and he’s drawn into a tangled mystery that runs far deeper than he might have guessed.<br/><br/>This one unfolds slowly, but that’s all right because Jay is such a compelling character and because, as you can tell from the opening pages, Locke can write. She has an eye for the telling detail, and she has a sense of how to keep a story moving. She mixes backstory with new narrative, and she adds layers both to the story and to its significance. This is a mystery, yeah, and you never quite forget it’s genre, but it’s also social commentary. This is, along with a good story, a look at the era when the fight for racial equality confronted its own adolescence. The Stokely Carmichaels of the world took matters a good distance. Locke suggests it was the Jays of the world who picked it up.<br/><br/>This one reminds me a bit of Walter Mosley, and that’s a compliment. The downside of genre is that it gives you too clear a roadmap of what to expect. The upside is that, given such a roadmap, it’s possible for particularly strong writers to invest it with more than just the generic material. Locke is a strong writer – however much this might slow, it never loses momentum – and she makes this mystery about something, about how to narrate the seeming break a generation ago in the story of the fight for African-American self-representation.<br/><br/>There’s also a dash of Chinatown in this. That is, [SPOILER] as the late parts of the novels make clear, the Houston of this era was built on the false promises of the oil industry. We see here an early glimpse of the corruption that rose to the Presidency under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. This is a condemnation of an industry – and the men running it – that’s built on exploiting the public and hiding its excesses. Like the freeway and real estate magnates of the great movie, the oil men here are all about inventing a need that they can fill in their own way and multiply their fortunes.<br/><br/>I’ll add my sense to the overall excellence here that Locke never settles for the easy answer. One nice way that plays out is in the depth of her characters. Everyone we meet has his or her own agenda. The people Jay encounters have their own lives. His intersects theirs for a time, then he moves on. When he meets some of the striking longshoremen, they aren’t hapless victims waiting for a lawyer hero. They’re men with real hopes and real strengths who, for a time, find common cause with Jay.<br/><br/>There’s always subtlety to the story, even at the end. There’s no abrupt resolution; Jay simply takes on an environmental case he’s likely to lose. Instead, the resolution is more telling. It’s about a brave man who, having been frightened into submission by the betrayal of others, rediscovers his strength. It’s nice to think that his child, born at the end, has a role model more inspiring than the frightened figure from the opening pages.<br/><br/>I give myself a rule that genre, unless its inventing the form, can never be higher than four stars. That’s what I’m going with here, but I’d make it 4.5 if I had the choice. <br/>

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Well written suspence

This is a well written suspenseful novel. I was engaged form the first page to the last. I will now seek out other books by this author.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Hated the melodramatic music

Great writer and drama enough in a well told story. The music between chapters distracted from experience for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • KerensaW
  • North Richland Hills, TX
  • 02-12-17

Fantastic!

What did you love best about Black Water Rising?

I loved this book much more than I thought I would! The narrator was spot on with his accents. Highly recommended!!!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Nope just kept me intrigued while listening and I couldn't stop listening.

Any additional comments?

Love love love the narrator - will look for more books that he has narrated!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A powerful chacterization of fear and courage

What other book might you compare Black Water Rising to and why?

Like Jodi Picoult's "Small Great Things," "Black Water Rising" jumps into the challenging and usually unspoken world of racism in America with both feet, bringing a powerful but very human voice that is difficult to ignore. At the same time, both stories are captivating, full of mystery and suspense, and satisfying without fairy-tale endings.

Any additional comments?

Although the story starts slowly and at times, some characters are difficult to keep straight, it works very well, particularly due to the pitch-perfect POV of Jay, the protagonist, who is fighting to make it through a dense maze of lies and danger.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 01-16-10

Thoughtful political thriller

I downloaded this after hearing Attica Locke talk about her why she began it. The atmospheric, gripping opening, showing her skills from being a film and television writer for over ten tears prior to writing this book, sets the scene for the ?thriller? side of the book. However there is more to this novel. Some people may engage with it accordingly, as I did, but some may feel the book drags in places or may even lose interest in it. It seems to have been born from a mediation on how Attica Locke?s parents changed from being involved in the civil rights movement, to becoming successful middle class professionals, somehow ?forgetting? the struggles of their younger selves, and ceased to continue fighting for the rights of those still without a chance because of the colour of their skin. The book is set in Houston,Texas in the 1980?s, and in the backstory the 1970?s. For me, White British and born in the 1960?s, this gave a fascinating and involving history lesson. The politics of the two decades form the identity of the main character; who he is, and therefore why he thinks and does what he does in the intertwined mystery of the main plot. On a broader canvas this is a book about how we all change in our lives; we lose or alter our ideals and, for good or for bad, how we deal with that fact. I have a few minor complaints, but find they are overshadowed by the strengths, and indeed potential strengths (although she is a writer this is her first novel) of the writing. Aside from the historical and political aspects, Attica Locke gave me a vivid sense of the characters of the people, including the bit players, and the places which they inhabit. She can also be disarmingly funny. What is also great about this as a listening experience is Dion Graham?s gorgeously rich voice giving the true sound of Houston, something I would have not experienced reading the page. I found this book succeeds in being involving, entertaining and thought provoking.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Helen
  • 11-21-10

too many metaphors

Nothing in this book was ever just itself. Everything was 'like' something else. it became very tiring. The plot was unrealistic and the female characters were all cyphers (preganant wife, career woman, bad girl made good). I did finish it, which is more than I can say for some books, so a two star rather than a one star.

  • Overall
  • Jaj
  • 07-08-10

struggling to make myself carry on listening.

which ain't never a good sign!