The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season made me think about how the past always impacts the present, especially with regard to history.  This is a very  deep emotionally and historically detailed novel. The past and present theme runs throughout the novel-a murder in the past and present, Belle Vie as it was and as it is, society and it was and as it is and relationships as they were and as they are.  While this novel takes place in the present , Attica Locke brings the current deep south to life with all the old subtle/not so subtle racial divisions and  distrusts that linger just below the surface. You could say that one of  the main characters in this novel is Belle Vie, the restored antebellum plantation located on the Mississippi River because Attica Locke’s words bring this house to life.  The novel’s main human character is Caren Gray, who grew up on Belle Vie, as the daughter of the plantation cook and is now the general manager/resident historian.  On one of Caren’s routine morning plantation facility checks, she discovers the body of a murdered woman in a shallow grave at the edge of the plantation property.

The police investigation quickly points to Donovan Isaacs, one of Belle Vie’s employees, who was on the plantation the night of the murder and has a police record.  Caren begins to investigate what Donovan was doing on the plantation the night of the murder and uncovers evidence that she believes will exonerate Donovan,  even as the police get a confession from him.  Caren also discovers that Donovan has been researching the disappearance of one of Caren’s relatives,  that was never solved, but long suspected of being a murder.  Caren’s long-held beliefs about many people and facts come into question as the book progresses and as the reader you are very emotionally invested in all of Attica Locke’s characters.   It is not easy to spot “the bad guy” in this book because there are many different degrees of badness, however, most agree that in the end the murderer  trumps all.

The Cutting Season  was the much-anticipated follow-up to Attica Locke’s first novel Black Water Rising.   Attica Locke is one of those authors who draws you in without you even realizing it.  You feel as if you are there, at Belle Vie walking the property with Caren.  If you enjoy history, suspense and mystery you will enjoy The Cutting Season.  However, this is not a straightforward mystery.  It is a well crafted compelling novel, filled with a balance of  suspense, history and mystery.  Definitely one to consider adding to your reading lists.