Title: The Cutting Season
Author: Attica Locke
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Genre: Literary Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Caren Grey is the manager of Belle Vie, a pre-Civil War plantation in Louisiana. Most of the people there don’t know that Caren grew up at Belle Vie, and her ties to the plantation (her great-great-great grandfather was a slave there) go back generations. When the body of a young woman is found on the plantation grounds, Caren begins looking into matters alongside the police investigation, and it sparks her interest in a different murder that goes back hundreds of years.
The Cutting Season is an atmospheric, beautifully written novel with an intriguing murder at its core. But it’s so much more than just a mystery novel. Attica Locke uses the setting—an antebellum plantation—to explore race tensions. Caren feels torn over the preservation of Belle Vie, a sanitized version of a horrible past. She has trouble going into the slave quarters, as they’re a reminder of what Belle Vie really was, rather than what it’s become. It’s an interesting exploration of race and history and Locke handles it beautifully.
The characters in The Cutting Season are incredibly well drawn. Caren is very sympathetic and the reader will find themselves emotionally invested in her. Even when she makes bad decisions, it’s understandable because the reader really becomes close to her. Indeed, the reader becomes invested in the fates of all the characters; Locke did a wonderful job of making each of them distinct and ensuring they had their own personalities for the reader to remember them by.
Sometimes while reading The Cutting Season, it seemed like the mystery was secondary to the atmosphere, setting, and character development, that it was a vehicle for these aspects of the novel to move forward. That is in no way a bad thing, as the mystery is rich and well-developed in its own right. As Caren investigates the young woman’s murder, she learns much about the history of Belle Vie, as well as about herself and those around her. It’s both intriguing and keeps the reader hooked.
The Cutting Season is one of those rare novels that draws the reader in and doesn’t let go until the last page. It’s very well balanced and so thick with atmosphere that the reader will forget they’re not reading it at plantation in Louisiana. Locke’s writing is gorgeous and makes the novel incredibly easy to read. If you’re looking for a well-rounded novel that has a little bit of everything, but also has great depth and will leave you thinking about it for days after you turn the last pages, this is a great choice.