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Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Cutting Season (edition 2012)

by Attica Locke

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4723921,929 (3.61)31
Title:Cutting Season
Authors:Attica Locke
Info:Serpents Tail (2012), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Louisiana, plantations, history, murder mystery, mothers and daughters, love relationships

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The Cutting Season by Attica Locke



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Caren Gray is General Manager at Belle Vie, an antebellum sugar plantation which is owned by the Clancy family but run as a historic tourist attraction. One day a body is discovered in the plantation fields, a migrant worker, and the local Sherrif's Department focuses on a worker at Belle Vie. Caren is convinced of his innocence and also believes the death may be related to the ambition of one of the Clancy brothers. Caren grew up on the plantation, her family had been associated with the estate since before the Civil War, so how do the recent events link to the mysterious disappearance of her ancestor over a hundred years ago.

This is the second Attica Locke book I have read and it is even better than the first (Black Water Rising). The plot is complex and therefore the book is hard to categorise, it's not a straightforward crime novel but it's also not really literary fiction. What is really engrossing is the power of the land and its hold over the characters. What is also carefully described are the relationships between the different groups of people. Caren is clever woman but she didn't complete Law School because of funding, her mother was a cook and her forebears were slaves, her ex-partner (and her father) were from middle-class African-American families, lawyers and doctors. The Clancy's are rich and powerful members of society as are the clients who book weddings at the plantation house. The workers at Belle Vie are poor white, poor black or poor hispanic, the workers at cane plantation are hispanic immigrants. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
Attica Locke is a terrific writer. She moved me on from one suspense filled scene to another, avoiding cliches, keeping me guessing. She has an eye for detail, keeps the location intimate and vivid, and stays honest with her clues. All of that would be enough. But for me the most compelling aspect of the book is her unflinching look at the social scene and her embrace of all the characters. This is a social commentary intimately entwined with a first class mystery. She is a gifted writer. I hope she keeps at it for a long time. ( )
  danhammang | Mar 16, 2017 |
Well-written mystery about a murder on a former plantation abutting a modern sugar cane farm. Compelling images including the ambivalence of the Southern black population to preserving historic Civil War sites, the connection that former slaves might have to a symbol of repression. Unexpectedly moving in places, and a good sense of place. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Caren manages the plantation which has been in the Clancy family for generations. Now a tourist attraction and a venue for weddings and upscale parties, Caren oversees staged plays of the plantation’s history, lavish receptions and parties, and in essence, cares for the people who work there. When a young woman is found murdered on the premises, Caren is drawn unwillingly into the depths of the police investigation. Not only does it seem like one her workers is somehow involved with some shady behavior, it may be that her own daughter knows more than she is telling. And it seems like a cover-up of a death generations ago is somehow connected. This tale bogs down in connecting the past with the present. Though an interesting setting and mystery, the characters are not well developed nor are the storylines fully explored. In trying to maintain an air of mystery as the story unfolds, the tale instead just becomes stagnant. A good idea, just not a well written story. ( )
  Maydacat | May 21, 2016 |
Originally posted at http://olduvaireads.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/tlc-book-tours-the-cutting-season-b...

I have to be honest, I was all ready to settle down for an, erm, unsettling mystery with this book. Instead I found myself immersed in an intriguing story with such depth and history that it took me a while to emerge from this. And even longer to figure out how to write about it.

“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 hand 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.”

Caren Grey is the general manager of Louisiana plantation-turned-tourist attraction Belle Vie. They host weddings and dinners, school tours and your usual tourists, enticing with some lovely 18-acres of views, a 157-year-old building, hearty food (“grits, rolled with smoked Gouda, spinach, and bacon; chard out of the garden, with garlic and lemon; and potatoes creamed with butter and drippings”), and a play by the Belle Vie Players about the plantation’s history.

Caren’s job is to make sure things run smoothly. With an almost-degree (she never quite finished) from Tulane Law School, some might say she’s overqualified for the job, but with a young daughter, it’s the best she can do at the moment. Plus she has ties to the place. Her mother used to cook for the family who lived there, but Caren’s roots go even deeper than that – she is the great-great-granddaughter of slaves who worked the plantation.

Her usual morning rounds come to an abrupt halt when a body is discovered on the property. A female migrant worker, her throat cut, her body buried in a shallow grave on the edge of the property, near the sugarcane fields owned by a burgeoning corporation.

The sheriff’s department thinks they have their man. But Caren thinks otherwise. And sets about trying to put things right. She has her own reasons though – her daughter Morgan, just 9, is keeping something from her, and that something involves a blood stain on the sleeve of one of her school shirts. And more importantly, Caren and Morgan reside on the property, and it is disconcerting to know that there is a killer out there somewhere. As if the plantation weren’t already eerie enough, with its leaden grey fog and rumours of being haunted.

“It was the stillness that spooked her. Not the kind of emptiness that comes with actual vacancy, but rather a strained quiet that was trying too hard, the tightness that comes when someone somewhere is trying very hard to be still, to restrain every twitch and wayward breath.”

Locke effectively uses the murder mystery to frame some bigger issues – race relations, politics, modern-day slavery, corporations etc. It was interesting to see how the Belle Vie Players, caught up in telling their tale of slavery on the plantation years ago, fail to see the similar situation that the migrant workers face working the sugarcane fields next door.

And Locke has given us a character whose roots are firmly in reality. Her emotions are raw, her actions flawed, but Caren is a tough character to like. Given her background as a former law student, some of her actions were questionable, but as a mother intending the best for her child, understandable.

The Cutting Season is an absorbing, well-written, atmospheric read, right from its opening when a snake as long as a Cadillac falls out of a tree and onto a woman’s lap to the way Locke ends it, staying away from conclusions that are too perfect and too neat but thoroughly satisfying.

I can’t wait to read more by Locke – I’ve just requested Black Water Rising from my library.
( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
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We navigate by stories, but sometimes we only escape by abandoning them.

--Rebecca Solnit
For Odell & Ophelia
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It was during the Thompson-Delacroix wedding, Caren's first week on the job, that a cottonmouth, measuring the length of a Cadillac, fell some twenty feet from a live oak on the front law, landing like a coil of rope in the lap of the bride's future mother-in-law.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061802050, Hardcover)

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).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:34 -0400)

When the dead body of a young woman is found on the grounds of Belle Vie, the estate's manager, Caren Gray, launches her own investigation into Belle Vie's history, which leads her to a centuries old mystery involving the plantation's slave quarters--and her own past.… (more)

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