Locke’s debut novel was published in 2010 to a big fanfare. Reviewers fell over themselves to praise the work, and hail Locke as the next Dennis Lehane and the book found its way on to several award shortlists. Maybe it was the weight of expectation, but I really didn’t enjoy it all and can’t quite get on board with all the ballyhoo.
Set in Houston in 1981, the novel focuses on Jay Porter, a former student activist turned lawyer. To celebrate his wife’s birthday, he takes her out on a luxury boat on the bayou. When the evening veers off course and he rescues a young woman from drowning, he couldn’t possibly imagine the repercussions it will have.
I think my first problem is that the this storyline is wafer thin. So thin in fact that the bulk of the opening half of the book concentrates on a dock worker’s strike and Jay’s shady past (he was a crappy activist, now he’s a crappy lawyer). My second problem is that Jay is thunderingly stupid. Some fairly tenuous plotting is required to actually have any repercussions from the bayou incident at all, and then most of them are down to his utter recklessness and seemingly low IQ.
The book is rammed full of stereotypes, thinly outlined for the most part, not a single one of them remotely believable. Consequently, I didn’t care about ANYONE in the book, not even Jay’s heavily pregnant wife (who he puts in danger more than once through his aforementioned idiocy). The resolution to the drowning girl storyline is unsatisfying, not least because it’s obvious from a mile away. By the time Jay remembers he once stood for something and goes all Erin Brockovich, it’s too late to make me think anything other than “oh for heaven’s sake, just end”. And then, just 5 pages later, without really resolving anything properly, it does.
Two stars. And that’s being kind.