The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Harper Collins, New York, 2012
Sent to me by the publisher. It is not often that I accept books for review as I am always afraid they will get shifted to the bottom of a TBR pile and I will forget to read them, or that I will forget to write and post my thoughts. When a women from Harper Collins sent an email asking if I would like a copy of Attica Locke’s new book I jumped at the chance. I read Black Water Rising last year and loved it.
Caren Gray has come back to manage the plantation where members of her family have served, either as slaves or as free people, since before the Civil War. Belle Vie has been restored to its former beauty, the tour includes the slave quarters and a rather historically inaccurate re-enactment. The mansion serves as a location for weddings and parties and provides jobs for local people who have been shut out of working in the local corporate-owned cane fields. When a murdered woman’s body is discovered on the grounds, it falls to Caren, her ex-husband and a stringer from a New Orleans paper to solve the mystery.
From the beginning the reader knows Caren has come to Belle Vie as a way to escape her past, which is psychologically intriguing because she is returning to the place of her youth. The job offers stability for her and her daughter, Morgan, but that stability comes at a cost. As the murder investigation deepens truths about Caren’s family history and the history of the plantation come to light, and the murderer intends to keep that truth bury, whatever the cost.
The Cutting Season is tightly plotted, the history of this part of the south wrapped in a well constructed mystery. Locke writes beautifully, somehow folding in painful generational memories, the tension of post civil war plantation life and present day class and racial struggles into a story that never feels like it is carrying deep political and cultural messages. I found this to be true in Dark Water Rising, Locke has a way of visiting the past, bringing it gently into the present and making it relevant. I hope this second novel finds a wide audience and look forward to reading her third.