Title: The Cutting Season
Author: Attica Locke
Review: 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.
In the end there were the seeds of a great novel contained in The Cutting Season that I would have loved to have read, and Attica Locke is more than capable of writing it. This novel was okay and worth the read, but I am anxiously awaiting her next effort with high hopes she hits the homerun I feel is coming.
Quick Review: 3.25 Stars out of 5
Why I Read It: Really enjoyed her first book Black Water Rising
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher for review, with the TLC Tour.
Synopsis: The American South in the twenty-first century. A plantation owned for generations by a rich family. So much history and a dead body.
Just after dawn, Caren walks the grounds of Belle Vie, the historic plantation house in Louisiana that she has managed for four years. Today she sees nothing unusual, apart from some ground that has been dug up by the fence bordering the sugar cane fields. Assuming an animal has been out after dark, she asks the gardener to tidy it up. Not long afterwards, he calls her to say it's something else. Something terrible. …A dead body. At a distance, she missed her. The girl, the dirt and the blood.
Now she has police on site, an investigation in progress, and a member of staff no one can track down. And Caren keeps uncovering things she will wish she didn't know. As she's drawn into the dead girl's story, she makes shattering discoveries about the future of Belle Vie, the secrets of its past, and sees, more clearly than ever, that Belle Vie, its beauty, is not to be trusted.
A magnificent, sweeping story of the south, The Cutting Season brings history face-to-face with modern America, where Obama is president, but some things will never change. Attica Locke once again provides an unblinking commentary on politics, race, the law, family and love, all within a thriller every bit as gripping and tragic as her first novel, Black Water Rising.
Author Biography: Born in Houston, Texas, Attica Locke has worked in both film and television for over ten years. She has written movie scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and most recently completed an adaptation of Stephen Carter's The Emperor of Pictures. She now lives in Los Angeles. Black Water Rising is her first novel.
Attica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was longlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK. Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter. She is currently at work on her second book.