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).
About Attica Locke
Attica Lockeis a screenwriter who has worked in both film and television. A native of Houston, Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
As manager of Belle Vie, an antebellum estate 50 miles south of Baton Rouge and an equal distance from New Orleans to the east, Caren Gray burns the candle at both ends. She supervises the staff and produces weddings and parties at the plantation while trying to raise her preteen daughter, Morgan. Also under her supervision is a historical play called The Olden Days of Belle Vie, which keeps the memory of 19th-century Louisiana alive for better or worse. Currently in a rebellious phase, Morgan plays her father, Eric, who’s estranged from Caren and has moved to Chicago for a job, against her mother. Fieldworker Luis’ discovery of a body facedown in a shallow, makeshift grave complicates an already challenging day for Caren. The victim is a young woman, her throat slit. Local police swarm Belle Vie as Caren confronts the problem of missing actor Donovan Isaacs, unwelcome freeloader Bobby Clancy and Morgan’s customary moods. After she finds blood on her daughter’s blouse, Caren goes into defensive mode when Morgan’s explanations are iffy. As Detective Jimmy Bertrand and his team dig deeper, everyone at Belle Vie gets edgier. – Kirkus Reviews
The New York Times Book Review – September 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
The slaves stand around the Louisiana plantation house wearing tattered calico and head scarves. They’re greeting party guests at Belle Vie, an antebellum manse turned tourist attraction. For $10.75 an hour, it’s not bad work.
They’re also actors in the dreadful little historical pageant that the place puts on for tourists. The play, “The Olden Days of Belle Vie,” is “full of belles and balls and star-crossed lovers, noble Confederates and happy darkies and more dirty Yankees than you could count.” Sample dialogue for white actors: “Ah, ma chère, we shall make a fine life here indeed.” Sample dialogue for blacks: “Dem Yankee whites can’t make me leave dis here land. Dis here mah home.”
The cast members don’t much care how they’re being used, though a few develop Pirandellian attachments to the characters they play. But it’s all in a day’s work, and it beats the kind of laboring Belle Vie’s pre-Civil War staff used to do. And however maudlin and dishonest this little drama may be, it delights the book clubs, party givers and sorority girls who eagerly treat the plantation as a piece of living history. [Read the full article...]
In ‘Season,’ One Plantation’s Double Murder Mystery
NPR Book Review – September 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
When it comes to healing the wounds of its troubled racial past, the United States is still in its “adolescent phase,” says novelist Attica Locke. The 2008 presidential election changed everything she had been taught about race, she says — and, as an African-American writer, she felt compelled to write about that new reality. The result is The Cutting Season, a thrilling, century-spanning story of two murders.
“I had moments when I was writing it where I was very afraid of offending people,” Locke says, “because of some of the ways in which I think the book suggests that there’s a script about race that we’ve been following for hundreds of years that doesn’t really work anymore.”
Locke tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep about the inspiration for her new novel, and why she feels the past “walks with us still.” [Read the full article...]
Review: ‘The Cutting Season’ by Attica Locke reaches from the present to the past
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – September 23, 2012 (Excerpt)
How much do I admire Attica Locke’s second novel, “The Cutting Season”? To answer that, I need to go back to her 2009 debut, “Black Water Rising,” which told the story of Jay Porter, an African American attorney in Houston, a former radical in full retreat from the unresolved issues, political and personal, of his past.
Set in 1981, “Black Water Rising” is nothing if not authoritative; Locke, who lives in Los Angeles, was raised in Houston and understands how the city works. But if that allows the novel to operate on a variety of levels — social, historical, cultural — it remains, primarily, an evocation of character.
This is an essential rule of the hard-boiled thriller: to develop drama from the mystery of personality, to find in the individual a microcosm of the compromise and corruption of the larger world. “Black Water Rising,” an Edgar and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, did this beautifully. “The Cutting Season” does an even better job. [Read the full article...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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