Summary (from Goodreads):
“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 can 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.”
This could probably best be described as a literary thriller. Normally when I hear that, I think something that’s a little boring, but that’s not the case here at all. The emphasis is more on “literary” but “thriller” is very well represented, too.
Instead, The Cutting Season is incredibly well-written but it’s also very gripping and hard to put down.
I’d never read Attica Locke before (she has one other novel, Black Water Rising) but when I heard that this was the first selection for Dennis Lehane’s new Harper imprint, I knew I wanted to read it. It almost didn’t even matter what it was about. It makes perfect sense that he’d pick this book, because the writing style is very similar. His books are more neo-noir, I would say (especially the mysteries; not so much The Given Day) and this is almost more Gothic than anything else.
One problem with thrillers is that the characters can sometimes be underdeveloped because the author (understandably) want to get to the action sequences as soon as possible. That isn’t true in this case; I almost immediately fell in love with Caren and spent most of the novel nervous for her and what she was learning.
This is a fun novel, yes, but there’s nothing guilty about it.