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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars complex...................and compelling
'The Cutting Season' by Attica Locke is a complex, intriguing tale of Belle Vie, a plantation in the Deep South of America. Belle Vie has a role to fill - that of portraying the past. Tourists come to visit the plantation, to experience history. The staff at Belle Vie re-enact the plantations' 'Glory Days' - each staff member acting out a typical 'Day in the life of'...
Published 23 months ago by laineyf

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cut and run
I have to admit that I was very disappointed by this novel. While it has an intriguing concept and promising opening scenes, it ultimately failed to deliver, and I felt that Attica Locke was grappling with something which isn't quite a crime thriller but isn't literary fiction either - always tricky territory to navigate. Even as I was reading the compelling opening,...
Published 24 months ago by Laura T


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars complex...................and compelling, 18 Dec 2012
By 
laineyf "widnes" (warwickshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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'The Cutting Season' by Attica Locke is a complex, intriguing tale of Belle Vie, a plantation in the Deep South of America. Belle Vie has a role to fill - that of portraying the past. Tourists come to visit the plantation, to experience history. The staff at Belle Vie re-enact the plantations' 'Glory Days' - each staff member acting out a typical 'Day in the life of' scenario. Caren is the plantation manager, making sure that everything runs smoothly. Belle Vie is hired out for weddings and functions, and Caren oversees the house and grounds and staff as part of her daily routine. She is part of Belle Vie's history, her Mother having been the cook there for many years, and now Caren is living there with her daughter, Morgan. Belle Vie has many stories to tell, not least the stories of the slaves who lived and worked there, and who made it the rich plantation that it became. Times move on, things change, and Belle Vie has to change accordingly. Secrets have a way of revealing themselves, no matter how old they are, and the truth will eventually be discovered. Belle Vie has many secrets.
This is a really good, descriptive book, that I really enjoyed. I thought that it was a little slow at times, but is well worth sticking with in my opinion. It is beautifully written, and Belle Vie comes to life through the author's words. There's opulence, history, intrigue, mystery, and, ultimately, resolution in this story, which I really liked. I definitely recommend this book, it's not a book that can be rushed through, it needs to be savoured. I do think that there are some slow spots in it, when my attention span faltered a little, but I'm glad that I stayed with it, as it picked up and carried me along.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate historical mystery, 23 Oct 2012
By 
AR (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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Early one misty morning in rural Louisiana, the body of a young immigrant woman is discovered in a shallow grave on the grounds of Belle Vie - a former plantation, now a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the American South. Belle Vie's manager, Caren, whose own history is closely linked to the plantation, is drawn into the police investigation and soon makes a series of disturbing discoveries.

This book may initially present itself as a crime thriller, but it's actually a work of literary fiction that deals with some powerful issues.

As a setting, the former plantation of Belle Vie is oppressive and weighed down with historical significance, not only for the characters, but for America itself.

Thanks to her heritage, Caren is tied to Belle Vie. Her great-great-great grandfather, Jason, is a legend. Having chosen to stay on at the plantation after the Civil War ended slavery, he mysteriously disappeared into the night and was never heard from again. Caren grew up with her mother, who worked as a cook at Belle Vie and told her stories of her ancestors and their lives on the plantation.

After moving away to study law, Caren and her daughter ended up back at Belle Vie in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and Caren has grown accustomed to the routines of the place that has dominated her life. But that all changes when a young woman, an immigrant worker from the neighbouring farm, is found dead.

The modern day events at Belle Vie parallel those that happened in the past. The two aspects of the story are so inextricably entwined that the past can never really be forgotten; it haunts the present, much as the spirits of slave workers are said to linger in the tiny cottages where they once lived. Perhaps this is a parallel for the way that racial division, whilst officially a thing of the past, still simmers under the surface in many parts of America. Certainly the presence of migrant workers in the fields beside Belle Vie is an issue to those who now work in the museum, and worry that their jobs will be lost to their new neighbours.

Family is another key theme, and takes many forms: from parents and their children, to lovers, childhood friends, and transient relationships that provide comfort in a foreign place. As Caren tries to investigate the murder, she is also forced to face her family issues and the connections between the two.

A beautifully written, intelligent and passionate story that encompasses generations of American history. Attica Locke has composed a compelling and intricate mystery to follow her debut Black Water Rising, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder, a lesson in the history of slavery and one smart heroine, 6 Oct 2012
By 
J. Coulton "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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The Cutting Season is more a novel with a murder at its heart than a crime novel per se - not that crime novels are inferior, I'm a great fan, but just to give you a more accurate picture of this rich and accomplished book. Attica Locke weaves the thrill of the hunt for a killer, with a fabulous historical lesson in slavery in the American Deep South, and the struggle of one woman's personal battles with the scars of her heritage.

The setting for the story is a former slave plantation and estate in Louisiana, where Caren Gray now lives with her nine year old daughter, and works as the manager of the heritage site it has become. But this ain't no Gone With the Wind. The book opens with the discovery of a the body of a young migrant worker from the neighbouring sugar cane business, whose throat has been brutally cut. Caren gets embroiled in the search for the killer, and for her it quickly gets personal, in both the way the events start to affect her own and her family's lives, and due to the roots her family have with the land and its own dark past.

Caren is relieved and confused when her lawyer ex partner comes to her aid, primarily to make sure that their daughter is safe, but their buried feelings for each other don't stay that way for long. The tension is ratcheted up very skillfully as the drama plays out, with a killer on the loose, and ghosts of the past haunting the vast estate. And the descriptive evocation of the darkness and the foreboding atmosphere of the place, both actual and metaphorical, is palpable.

Gray is a great heroine - smart and daring, capable yet vulnerable at the same time. And through her Locke is able to create a fabulous portrait of slavery, and draw comparisons to the bleak situation modern day migrant workers, and how they are exploited in a very similar contemporary way by the political forces around them. The conflicts of the past are shown to be just as relevant, and shocking, today as they were in the shameful days of slavery.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cut and run, 30 Nov 2012
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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I have to admit that I was very disappointed by this novel. While it has an intriguing concept and promising opening scenes, it ultimately failed to deliver, and I felt that Attica Locke was grappling with something which isn't quite a crime thriller but isn't literary fiction either - always tricky territory to navigate. Even as I was reading the compelling opening, which places the lead character, Caren, firmly in the atmospheric setting of Belle Vue, an old Louisiana plantation now turned into a tourist attraction and popular wedding venue, I found Locke's style occasionally jarring. She has an unfortunate habit of repeatedly writing two sentences that each occupy their own paragraph:

The sentences are like this.
It keeps on happening.

This reminded me of some of the trashier novels I read during my teenage years, and added a melodramatic edge to what was otherwise very competent prose, as if Locke was trying too hard to dial up the tension. As she continues her tale of Caren's discovery of the body of a Mexican cane worker found on the edge of the grounds of the plantation, the strong sense of place in the opening section faded, and about halfway through, I found myself losing interest in the crime and not particularly caring who had murdered the girl. Caren's relationships with her ex-husband, Eric, and her daughter, Morgan, initially appear to possess some complexity, as well, but Locke failed to further explore the connections between these three people, or deepen Caren's character further than our initial impression of her, although we do gradually discover more about her past life.

It's a shame that this novel was not better-written, as there is some very promising material here - the theme of race is an obvious thread throughout the story, as Caren, a black woman who has family links to the plantation through her slave ancestors, deals with her conflicted feelings about managing the site, and we learn that racism is now being directed towards the Mexican cane workers who now harvest the crops, although of course this doesn't negate the past or present suffering of the majority black population. However, these interesting ideas are gradually subsumed under the insistent plotting of a straightforward crime novel - although, of course, the best crime novels take thematic resonance in their stride. Despite these stabs towards readability, even Locke's dramatic prose and over-use of cliffhangers didn't make the story exciting, and so it's left with the same unsolvable problem - it's neither compulsively addictive, nor truly thoughtful.

And so I finally made a decision.
I was going to stop reading this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CHANGING TIMES SENSITIVELY EXPLORED, 29 Sep 2012
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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2010. Louisville's Belle Vie Plantation is but a fraction of its former size, so much land now the Groveland Corporation's sugar cane fields. The big house and immediate surrounds double as a living museum (popular with school parties) and venue for lavish functions, weddings in particular. At the centre of everything is Caren Gray, her ancestors once slaves on the estate. Now she is General Manager, ensuring all runs smoothly. This it does not, when a body is found....

This atmospheric, thoughtprovoking novel is far more than a murder mystery. Fascinating facts emerge of past and present, both full of undercurrents and questions unanswered. Is the plantation's history as officially depicted? Whatever became of Caren's forebear Jason in 1872? What about the current workforce, it resentful that one of its own be in a position of authority? What are the Clancy family owners up to? Rumours abound of secret agendas, a possible closure. What chance of a job elsewhere with so many immigrants in the area - many illegal and all prepared to work for low rates?

The tale is rich and full of surprises. Seasoned readers may suspect quite early on how it will end - not the identity of the killer perhaps, but what the future of Belle Vie will be. They could be in for a shock. I was certainly taken aback.

Not everything works, the novel's greatest strengths perhaps not about the actual murder investigation. (There certain aspects did not entirely convince - some of Caren's nocturnal activities, the business of the blouse, the earring, etc.) Much, though, appeals with some likeable characters - Caren herself, the loyal Eric, reporter Lee Owens, prime suspect Donovan Isaacs (especially when HIS secret agenda comes to light).

An enjoyable, absorbing read.

(Check out the fine map - very useful. Note the quotation that precedes it - very significant.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overcomes the second novel curse, 26 Oct 2012
By 
B. Innes "Mtoto" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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I read Black Water rising when it came out on the strength of its reviews and thought it excellent

So often a second novel doesn't come close so I was a little worried.

The Cutting Season is really good.

It is excellent in terms of the development of a sense of menace. All explored against a a backdrop of love, politics, race, migrant workers and history. That makes it sound potentially horribly worthy. It isn't.

Also very clever is the use of the sanitised tourist location of the house and the reality of the horrors that took place in the past.

This is a complicated and atmospheric novel and I will definitely be distributing some Christmas copies to some of my nearest and dearest.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "He pulled out a small pad, identical to the one his partner was using to take notes", 20 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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I'm afraid the quote above illustrates an example of why I found this book intensely frustrating.

Locke has a habit of not giving the precise and personal detail which would help the reader identify character - the early introduction of a whole swathe of characters described as 'the thin cop' 'the taller cop' 'fat' 'short etc - and then honing her focus onto a singularly unremarkable detail, like the above, so that briefly the reader thinks 'aha, this identical notebook, it must be IMPORTANT' - but of course, a moment's reflection will reveal the fact that we are talking police issue stationery here. Of course the notebooks will be identical. certainly, by 200 pages in to the novel the notebook detail (page 39) had not resurfaced.

The problem is, the book seems a little unsure of exactly what it is. Is it a thriller? It certainly starts with a murder and the thrust of the book, for the central character, seems to be unravelling the mystery, and the back-jacket praise from James Ellroy appears to suggest this is the genre. however, it meanders slowly, with little sense of mounting tension. Is it an examination of the legacy of the South, set as it is in a former ante-bellum sugar plantation, now become a historical theme park to 'back then'? If so, the texture, the characterisation are not deep enough, personalised enough to give this reader the idea of real people. Is it a story of mothers and daughters, and absent fathers? Again, not enough real characterisation. In fact, the central character seems to behave in a rather inexplicable fashion from the off. Just why does she react so to her small daughter's shirt and behave so peculiarly? It is of course perfectly possible that this psychology, (page 79) which appears to create much of the book's drive, does get revealed at some point, but certainly, nothing remotely explanatory has happened by page 200. I must confess that I could get no further. There were these separate, potentially interesting strands, but for me, the whole lacked either the narrative tension and drive to propel me to page turning, or the depth of sense of place and psychology to lure me into the being of the characters
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 5 May 2014
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Paperback)
Fantastic book with a brilliant storyline which delves into the history of America and a young woman. Haunting but packed with action and suspense. A must read, I read it within a week, I couldn't put it down. Thank you Attica Locke
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thriller with political and historical dimensions., 11 April 2014
By 
bookworm8 "bookworm8" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
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A taut and at times distressing thriller, in which Attica Locke comments on modern American politics, issues of race and of family. She explores tensions between love and the law - and entertains and engages from the first page to the last. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written book, 20 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Cutting Season (Paperback)
The different themes are well integrated, historically it is extremely interesting about slavery and links are made with present day practices, such as big business and politics. The modern day thriller stands up well.
One can see this being made in to a tense film.
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The Cutting Season
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (Paperback - 4 July 2013)
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