Title: The Cutting Season
Author: Attica Locke
Release Date: September 10, 2012
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
In Black Water Rising, Attica Locke delivered one of the most stunning and sure-handed fiction debuts in recent memory, garnering effusive critical praise, several award nominations, and passionate reader response. Now Locke returns with The Cutting Season, a riveting thriller that intertwines two murders separated across more than a century.
Caren Gray manages Belle Vie, a sprawling antebellum plantation that sits between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the past and the present coexist uneasily. The estate’s owners have turned the place into an eerie tourist attraction, complete with full-dress re-enactments and carefully restored slave quarters. Outside the gates, a corporation with ambitious plans has been busy snapping up land from struggling families who have been growing sugar cane for generations, and now replacing local employees with illegal laborers. Tensions mount when the body of a female migrant worker is found in a shallow grave on the edge of the property, her throat cut clean.
As the investigation gets under way, the list of suspects grows. But when fresh evidence comes to light and the sheriff’s department zeros in on a person of interest, Caren has a bad feeling that the police are chasing the wrong leads. Putting herself at risk, she ventures into dangerous territory as she unearths startling new facts about a very old mystery—the long-ago disappearance of a former slave—that has unsettling ties to the current murder. In pursuit of the truth about Belle Vie’s history and her own, Caren discovers secrets about both cases—ones that an increasingly desperate killer will stop at nothing to keep buried.
Taut, hauntingly resonant, and beautifully written, The Cutting Season is at once a thoughtful meditation on how America reckons its past with its future, and a high-octane page-turner that unfolds with tremendous skill and vision. With her rare gift for depicting human nature in all its complexities, Attica Locke demonstrates once again that she is “destined for literary stardom” (Dallas Morning News).
I found myself sucked into this story right from the start. I have a bit of a thing for old homes, and tour them every chance I’ve get. I’ve even been to Oak Alley Plantation, outside of New Orleans, which I believe is the inspiration for Belle Vie. So the unusual setting for this novel appealed to me.
The writing is beautiful, and I liked the characters, for the most part. I actually found Caren to be one of the weaker characters. There’s not very much that is interesting or unique about her, other than her ability to mess up every relationship she’s ever had, romantic or familial. I’m still not sure I quite understand what her problem with her mother was. And she really just happens upon the solution to the mystery, rather than actually figuring it out. I also ended up confusing a lot of the Belle Vie workers with one another, especially towards the end.
As far as the mystery goes, I found myself more interested in its effect on the workers of Belle Vie than in finding out whatever happened to the poor woman. I also ended up feeling a bit cheated, because you’re lead to believe that there is a connection between this woman’s murder and the disappearance of Caren’s ancestor, and it doesn’t pay off. In fact, we never truly find out what (or who) it is that was found in the fields.
Overall, I found this to be a relatively satisfying read. There’s a definite undercurrent of social issues, but the author’s agenda is not overpowering. I certainly liked it enough to pick up something else by Locke.
“Still, she took it as a sign. A reminder, really, that Belle Vie, its beauty, was not to be trusted. That beneath its loamy topsoil, the manicured grounds and gardens, two centuries of breathtaking wealth and spectacle, lay a land both black and bitter, soft to the touch, but pressing in its power. She should have known that one day it would spit out what it no longer had use for, the secrets it would no longer keep.”
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- “There are truly so many highlights from this novel that I am only going to be able to touch the surface in this review.” — Booking Mama
- “This book had a lot going for it; a love story, history, politics, murder. I enjoyed the hell out of it and definitely look forward to reading more of her books.” — red headed book child
- “The Cutting Season falls a little short of the impossibly high standards Locke set with Black Water Rising, but it will enchant fans of fiction with social justice themes.” — nomadreader