Attica Locke’s THE CUTTING SEASON
Black Water Rising was one of the best crime debut’s I have read and was shortlisted for The Orange Prize, a rarity for a crime novel. So it was with much excitement and a little trepidation that I picked up her second novel The Cutting Season. But my trepidation was extinguished almost instantly as Attica Locke’s skill as a writer and a storyteller comes to the fore immediately.
As I was reading the book I was struck how totally different The Cutting Season is from Black Water Rising but as I think about writing my review I realize that there are actually a lot of similarities. While The Cutting Season reads more like a straight crime novel there is still a richness of history and people trying to escape the shadow of the past.
The novel is set on a Louisiana plantation. It is no longer a working farm but a historic preserve. The grounds host school excursions and tourists as well as being open to functions and weddings. Caren Gray manages the estate on behalf of the Clancy family who have owned the plantation for generations. Caren’s family history is also tied to the property for as many generations, if not more. When the body of a migrant worker from a neighbouring farm is found on the property the plantation’s dark past can no longer be swept under the carpet by its current owners.
This was such an intriguing read. The murder mystery at the heart of the story is handled with absolute skill but the way in which Attica Locke is able to weave into this mystery the murky history of the South in particular the issue of slavery pre and post the American Civil War is fascinating. Rather than get caught in an expansive history, Attica Locke focuses on personal history to show how close it really is and always will be and that you can’t out run it, sweep it away or bury it.