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VINE VOICEon 23 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 18 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 2 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Caren works as the live-in manager at Belle Vie, a former sugar cane plantation in Louisiana. The big house and its grounds are now a tourist attraction and events venue, one in which staff dress up as slaves and slave owners to present hackneyed plays about Belle Vie's antebellum past. As the descendant of slaves on the plantation Caren feels uneasy about Belle Vie and the way its history is presented; however, it is also the only place she truly thinks of as home.

"The Cutting Season" opens with the discovery of a young woman on Belle Vie's grounds - her throat has been cut and her body dumped. Although Locke's second novel contains moments of suspense and excitement, the murder isn't the whole focus; rather "The Cutting Season" is an intelligent exploration of the ways in which we choose to represent history and how that same history comes to define us.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 23 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an atmospheric and evocative novel set in the deep south of America. The novelist writes well and has created characters with depth. The book is very evocative of its location setting and also has an epic narrative feel. Recommended.
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on 6 November 2012
Caren is the manager at Belle Vie, a sprawling plantation house deep in Louisiana One morning whilst making her inspection of the grounds, she comes across a young Mexican woman, brutally murdered and discarded. With the police investigation inadequate, Caren investigates and the more she finds out, the more she starts to suspect a cover up. The white owner of the property is desperate to sell, the woman's employer has a history of violence and she might have uncovered something she shouldn't have just before her death. The investigation even leads back to Caren's ancestor Joseph, a slave on the plantation that disappeared soon after gaining freedom. An ambitious book, The Cutting Season covers race relations, history and politics as well as a criminal investigation.

On the whole, I enjoyed Cutting Season. It's expertly written and ambitious in coverage. The topics of race and slavery are handled sensitively and the book is thought provoking - who should really own the plantation houses? Should they be preserved for history or should we wipe the slate clean and start again? Does history belong to all of us or just a select few? Should history affect modern day decisions? Although I'm not a big fan of crime fiction, I could see that the mystery of who had killed Ines was well structured with enough red herrings to keep me guessing. I didn't work out who it was before the big reveal.

Despite everything I enjoyed about the book, it just seemed to be missing that special something. I don't know if it was purely because I don't love crime, but the middle section lagged and I never felt fully engaged with the story. In some ways, I think Locke was too ambitious and couldn't do everything she wanted to do within the confines of a crime/mystery novel; the genre was too restrictive for all the themes she wanted to cover. Locke was experimental by adding so much more to the genre but too confined by the conventions of the genre. I would have liked to see more of a gothic literary style novel rather than a traditional whodunit.

I'm sure crime fans will love this book as it's a good mystery and the writing is excellent. I wasn't the biggest fan of this one but I don't think I was the right reader for it.
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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 28 January 2013
Didn't like this book much and didn't finish it. I like UK detectives best and although I do read American detective stories I wouldn't recommend this.
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on 3 December 2015
never ordered it
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