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The Cutting Season: A Novel Hardcover – September 18, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 289 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this atmospheric follow-up to Black Water Rising (2009), Locke once again confronts matters of race and conscience. Some days, Caren Gray can hardly believe she is still rooted to Belle Vie, the Louisiana plantation where she grew up, where her mother was a cook and her great-great-great-grandfather was a slave. Now the single mother to a nine-year-old daughter, she manages the showplace, which has long been owned by the prosperous Clancy family and is a popular site for weddings and banquets. Despite the beauty of the house and grounds, Caren still feels uneasy whenever she visits the former slave quarters, a stark reminder of the antebellum plantation’s notorious past. When a cane worker is found with her throat slit, Caren is drawn into the investigation as the police target one of her employees as the murderer. Soon, though, Caren learns some rather unsavory information about the Clancy family and their nefarious dealings in both the past and the present. This is a nuanced look at the South’s tragic past and one strong woman’s stand against ingrained cultural and economic oppression. --Joanne Wilkinson


“One of the most engaging and gifted new voices in the genre. . . . The Cutting Season does more than exhume a body—it rattles the bones of slavery, race, class, and power to examine a crime that reverberates from more than a century ago.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“The impressively astute Attica Locke writes . . . in much the same way that Mr. Lehane [does]. . . . Each is willing to use the murder mystery as a framework for much more ambitious, atmospheric fiction.” (New York Times)

“Compelling. . . . A mystery that expands the whole idea of the mystery, reaching from the present deeply into the past. . . . Great writing, the kind that gives you goose bumps.” (Los Angeles Times)

“Although The Cutting Season succeeds as a thriller, above all it is a well-crafted warning about the damage wrought—generational, social, romantic—when the past is distorted or denied.” (Financial Times)

“A thoughtful, well-written and absorbing read with a surprising ending.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Dripping with southern Gothic atmosphere. . . . Equal parts murder mystery and family drama, the novel also draws readers in through its considerations of African-American history and life in post-Katrina Louisiana.” (USA Today)

“I was first struck by Attica Locke’s prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. . . . I’d probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine.” (Dennis Lehane)

The Cutting Season is a rare murder mystery with heft, a historical novel that thrills, a page-turner that makes you think. Attica Locke is a dazzling writer with a conscience.” (Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Wench)

The Cutting Season is a novel about the shifting definitions of family, the persistent pull of history, the sterling promise of home, and the stunning power of love. It pulled me in and held me close to the very last page.” (Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061802050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061802058
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (289 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luanne Ollivier on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have a mental list of authors that I faithfully follow and I pick up everything they write. I know what I like and I have a good idea of what I'll be reading. But on the other side of that coin - picking up a book by an unfamiliar author is an adventure.

The Cutting Season is Attica Locke's second book. I missed her debut novel - Black Water Rising - it won numerous prize nominations and lots of praise. But, after reading The Cutting Season, I can see why. Attica Locke is good -really good.

Caren Gray and her young daughter have returned home to Belle Vie - the Louisiana plantation Caren was raised on. Her family history with Belle Vie stretches back to the days when her ancestors were slaves in the sugar cane fields. Now the plantation is a tourist attraction and Caren is the manager. It's not the path she wanted to pursue in life and she has mixed feelings about returning to the plantation.

When an migrant worker is found murdered on the grounds, old and new wounds are opened - long buried history and new controversy. And Caren puts herself in the middle....

Locke drew me in immediately. I was of course caught up in the present day whodunit. There are lots of suspects and the path to the answer is winding. But, at the same time, Caren is caught up in the disappearance of her ancestor Jason, one hundred years ago. Locke skillfully weaves the unravelling of both narratives together.

The mysteries are intriguing, but I enjoyed Locke's exploration of race, politics, business, history and yes, love, just as much. The juxtaposition of abolished slavery and the plight of migrant workers today provides much food for thought.

The character of Caren came across as 'real'.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine you were just beginning a game of Clue and I said to you "Hey, it was either Mr. Green with Revolver in the Library, or Miss Scarlett with the Lead Pipe in the Kitchen, or Colonel Mustard with the Rope in the Ballroom." Then I let you wander around aimlessly the whole game before apropos of nothing I said it was the last choice. Now let's finish the game. That is the frustration I felt with this book.

It seems the author wanted to write a great novel of modern race relations but felt compelled to force it into a mystery format, thus missing on both fronts. The unfortunate problem is Ms. Locke is a very talented writer, the setting of her book was beautiful, her characters had definite possibilities, and the crime itself was intriguing. She had all the pieces for a great novel but failed to put the puzzle together.

I think the plot derailed with the choice of main character, Caren, the caretaker of the living history museum Belle Vie Plantation. While an interesting person in her own right she never really investigated anything, nor as an ordinary citizen did she have an avenue to. Rather like my initial analogy, she was just a person to whom full solutions could be presented to over the course of the book. Typically a solid mystery would have a character dig into the threads of a solution and as the story progresses slowly find the truth. The side character of the investigative reporter would have had the means to pull that off much better.

Then when we are given the big climax wherein all is explained and it really comes as a complete package instead of a rewarding journey. There was so much to be explored and discussed between the two family histories, both Caren's and the villain's, and the two crimes, both ancient and modern.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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