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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).

Published: HarperCollins on Sep 11, 2012
ISBN: 9780062097743
List price: $11.85
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I was very excited to get a review copy of The Cutting Season for two reasons. First, I loved her first novel, Black Water Rising - there are images from that book still banging about in my head. Second, it's the first novel published under Dennis Lehane's imprint for Harper Collins and I think Lehane's a rock star. He made a great choice of first book and first author to promote.The Cutting Season tells the story of Caren, an independent woman who seems stuck - drawn back to the place where she grew up, settled into the pattern of who she used to be and who she is expected to be. As the manager of a historic plantation, her job involves what you might imagine, but also something you might not - the production of a pro-slavery play written by a doyenne of the plantation's history. The play and events surrounding it really heat things up and create a mystery that allows the author to meditate on race relations then and now, the nature of relationships, and on getting unstuck. Expect to stay up late reading just one more chapter and to be given imagery and history that will cause you to think about how much we've whitewashed in our history. Highly recommended.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Won through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.This book was a well written page turner. I enjoyed it very much. The suspense held me captive. Very impressed as only the author's 2nd book. I will certainly keep an eye out for more from her.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Caren Gray's life, past and present, has always been tied to the Belle Vie Plantation. Belle Vie is her childhood home. Caren Gray also has ancestral ties to Belle Vie. Her great-great-great grandfather, Jason, was a slave and later a free man on this very plantation. On what Caren thought was another routine day as manager of Belle Vie Plantation, she came across a body lying face down and at that moment Belle Vie began to reveal the secrets it could no longer keep. The Cutting Season is well organized and logically constructed. Locke gave the reader a history lesson dating back to slavery along with some investigative journalism into lives of migrant workers and their impact on a community. Locke deals with the class divisions within the African-American community reminding me of Toni Morrison's, TarBaby. There is a lot to keep in order all while the suspense of the murder investigation keeps you on edge. The more the murder investigation unfolds the more Caren discovers about her own life. Levelheaded would be the word I would use to describe Caren Gray. She is a single mother trying to raise her daughter and balance a career. Caren has to manage a plantation which is a busy tourist attraction along with its many employees who love to challenge her authority. Frankly, when I chose The Cutting Season I had no idea that it would read the way it did. It was a beautiful surprise. I can't say I fell in love with the story but the beauty was in Locke's writing style and the overall construction of the novel. From start to finish you knew you were in the hands of a skilled writer because the issues were relevant and woven deep into the narrative. Locke's prose was stunning. This book was provided by the publisher. Views and opinions are my own.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I was very excited to get a review copy of The Cutting Season for two reasons. First, I loved her first novel, Black Water Rising - there are images from that book still banging about in my head. Second, it's the first novel published under Dennis Lehane's imprint for Harper Collins and I think Lehane's a rock star. He made a great choice of first book and first author to promote.The Cutting Season tells the story of Caren, an independent woman who seems stuck - drawn back to the place where she grew up, settled into the pattern of who she used to be and who she is expected to be. As the manager of a historic plantation, her job involves what you might imagine, but also something you might not - the production of a pro-slavery play written by a doyenne of the plantation's history. The play and events surrounding it really heat things up and create a mystery that allows the author to meditate on race relations then and now, the nature of relationships, and on getting unstuck. Expect to stay up late reading just one more chapter and to be given imagery and history that will cause you to think about how much we've whitewashed in our history. Highly recommended.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Won through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.This book was a well written page turner. I enjoyed it very much. The suspense held me captive. Very impressed as only the author's 2nd book. I will certainly keep an eye out for more from her.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Caren Gray's life, past and present, has always been tied to the Belle Vie Plantation. Belle Vie is her childhood home. Caren Gray also has ancestral ties to Belle Vie. Her great-great-great grandfather, Jason, was a slave and later a free man on this very plantation. On what Caren thought was another routine day as manager of Belle Vie Plantation, she came across a body lying face down and at that moment Belle Vie began to reveal the secrets it could no longer keep. The Cutting Season is well organized and logically constructed. Locke gave the reader a history lesson dating back to slavery along with some investigative journalism into lives of migrant workers and their impact on a community. Locke deals with the class divisions within the African-American community reminding me of Toni Morrison's, TarBaby. There is a lot to keep in order all while the suspense of the murder investigation keeps you on edge. The more the murder investigation unfolds the more Caren discovers about her own life. Levelheaded would be the word I would use to describe Caren Gray. She is a single mother trying to raise her daughter and balance a career. Caren has to manage a plantation which is a busy tourist attraction along with its many employees who love to challenge her authority. Frankly, when I chose The Cutting Season I had no idea that it would read the way it did. It was a beautiful surprise. I can't say I fell in love with the story but the beauty was in Locke's writing style and the overall construction of the novel. From start to finish you knew you were in the hands of a skilled writer because the issues were relevant and woven deep into the narrative. Locke's prose was stunning. This book was provided by the publisher. Views and opinions are my own.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I enjoyed this book more than the author's first book, Black Water Rising,. I found the story very compelling and loved the interaction for our protagonist, Caren, and her ancestral family past as slaves on the very plantation she now managed. There is a nice story as a single mother raising her precocious nine year old daughter and the mystery, such as it was, was intriguing. I think I would have to agree with several other reviewers that some of the characterization just felt flat. There were plenty of other characters to interact with but something was missing. There was a good deal of background information as to how slaves were treated and what occurred during the freedom of Reconstruction and that was all handle very well. Her descriptive passages are very detailed and very complete. I like the author and look forward to the next book as I did enjoy both of her recent publications.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Caren Gray is the manager of the plantation Belle Vie. It is rather ironic that she is in charge of the property since a few generations back her ancestors were slaves in the field and had no choice in the matter. Now instead of providing food, the plantation entertains tourists and school groups as well as hosting weddings. Caren has done her best to convince herself that this is the life that she wants to lead even though she used to be in law school and was the partner in a loving relationship with the father of her daughter. All of that has slipped passed her and now her days consist of being a single mother to Morgan and trying to manage the wily cast of characters that make up the staff of the plantation not to mention it's eccentric owners who have known Caren since childhood. Life hums along for Caren until one day a young woman, one of the migrant farm workers from the farm next door, is found murdered on the Belle Vie property. The murder is tied to the disappearance of one Caren's slave ancestors. Although Caren has done a pretty good job of sticking her head in the ground to avoid unpleasant things in her life she will need to confront the past head on, both her recent past and the past history of her family.Caren is a lovely character and you can't help rooting for her even though she has made a mistake in her past where you can hardly believe that the level headed character you are presented with could have ever been that stupid. The story is a very interesting one but the pacing is very slow for a mystery/ thriller novel. Although the novel concept was a great one the execution of the story line had some problems putting in just under a four star read for me.
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The basics: The Cutting Season is the story of Belle Vie, an old sugar plantation in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Caren currently runs Bell Vie, which has been turned into a historical site. Tours regularly come through to witness the history of how the land was once farmed by slaves. It's also a popular location for weddings and special events. Caren's ancestors once worked as slaves on Belle Vie, and her mother worked there as a cook. With deep, complicated family ties to the land, Caren returned home to Belle Vie with her nine-year-old daughter Morgan. When the body of a young woman is discovered on the grounds of the plantation, Caren finds herself trying to solve the crime and discover if there's a connection to the mystery of why her great-great-great-grandfather disappeared from this land so many years ago.My thoughts: If pressed to pick a genre for this novel, I would begrudgingly call it a literary mystery. Somehow this moniker sells it short to me, however, as Locke uses a mystery to explore themes of race, class, history and progress. Caren is a fascinating character who slowly shares the details of her life, and the lives of her ancestors, with the reader. I appreciated how Locke used Caren to demonstrate the complicatedness of her relationship with Southern history.I devoured this novel in twenty-four hours, and even though Locke sprinkled only minor clues throughout the novel, I did correctly guess the resolution to both the historic and contemporary storylines quite early. While normally figuring out the ending dampens my enjoyment of a mystery, in this case it did not. Finding out who killed the young woman on Belle Vie is never really the focus of the story. Caren gets caught up in the investigation, but the more urgent and fascinating storyline is of the plantation itself. Locke traces its history from before the Civil War, through emancipation, to Caren's childhood and, finally, to present day. Glimpsing into race relations over all of these years was illuminating enough, but what sets Locke apart from her peers is her ability to also weave in detail about business, politics, love, and parenting. Her books feel like complete worlds, and thus provide the reader with a multi-dimensional tale.The verdict: 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. The mystery's resolution didn't surprise me, but Locke's writing, characterization and exploration of historical and contemporary race relations on a Louisiana sugar plantation are powerful enough to transcend the mystery's slight weakness. Locke once again proves she can write about the past and present powerfully.
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