Contents Under Pressure Summary
by Edna Buchanan

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Contents Under Pressure

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Black ex-football star and local hero, D. Wayne Hudson, is allegedly injured in an accident while attempting to evade police. Hudson dies a few hours later. Britt investigates Hudson’s death and a cover-up emerges. The police stonewall, but Britt learns that the midnight shift is a dumping ground for troublemakers.

One of the officers involved speaks with her off the record. The first officers chasing Hudson were in an unmarked car, and Hudson did not stop until a squad car arrived. The officers dragged him out of his car and beat him. Realizing who Hudson was, they smashed his car to make it appear he was injured in an accident.

Britt prints the story, and the police investigate. The black community is outraged, and tension is fanned by black leaders. Learning that Hudson’s injuries were not fatal, Britt suspects murder. A police lieutenant tells her he believes that Major Francisco Alvarez wet up and murdered Hudson to create tension. If the current chief resigned, Alvarez would become the new chief.

A few hours after Britt learns that Alvarez murdered Hudson in the hospital by injecting him with narcotics, the city erupts in a riot triggered by the acquittal of the officers who beat Hudson. During the riot, Alvarez attempts to rape and kill Britt but is himself killed by rioters while chasing her. Because he cannot defend himself from the allegations, the paper refuses to print Britt’s story.

The characters are well portrayed and often have to make compromises and sacrifices. The city of Miami is a deftly shown, integral part of the story. The reader empathizes with Britt as she finds out the truth. Britt is a likable heroine, tough yet caring.

CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE is an excellent mystery, well constructed, tightly written, and suspenseful.