Cover image for Book Club kit : The cutting season
Book Club kit : The cutting season
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper, c2012.

Physical Description:
8 bks. (viii, 374 p.) : map ; 24 cm. + 1 discussion guide
General Note:
"Dennis Lehane Books."

Maps on endpapers.
When the dead body of a young woman is found on the grounds of Belle Vie, the estate's manager, Caren Gray, launches her own investigation into Belle Vie's history, which leads her to a centuries old mystery involving the plantation's slave quarters--and her own past.
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From Attica Locke, a writer and producer of FOX's Empire:

"The Cutting Season is a rare murder mystery with heft, a historical novel that thrills, a page-turner that makes you think. Attica Locke is a dazzling writer with a conscience."--Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Wench

After her breathtaking debut novel, Black Water Rising, won acclaim from major publications and respected crime fiction masters like James Ellroy and George Pelecanos, Locke returns with The Cutting Season, a second novel easily as gripping and powerful as her first--a heart-pounding thriller that interweaves two murder mysteries, one on Belle Vie, a historic landmark in the middle of Lousiana's Sugar Cane country, and one involving a slave gone missing more than one hundred years earlier. Black Water Rising was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar#65533; Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the U.K.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Locke follows her debut, Black Water Rising, with a convoluted tale about the Louisiana antebellum plantation Belle Vie and two multigenerational families that have occupied it for more than a century. Caren Gray, whose great-great-great grandfather was a slave, manages the entire staff for Belle Vie, which caters weddings and parties and stages shows about plantation life in the old days. The Clancys trace their lineage back to William Tynan, who acquired the plantation after the Civil War. Patriarch Leland Clancy's wife restored the mansion now run by her son Raymond. The discovery of the body of a cane field worker from the adjacent farm on Belle Vie property triggers a chain of events that embroils Caren, her nine-year-old daughter, the Clancys, and others in an investigation that finds its antecedents in the two families' entwined histories. The murder and its solution take second place as Locke charts the South's troubled progress since slavery through a surfeit of subplots. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Guardian Review

Some years ago, a friend drove me up the Mississippi on a tour of the plantation mansions that still stud the landscape between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Towards dusk, we drove past the impressive approach to the Oak Alley mansion. Its pillared façade gleamed in the approaching dark, then a wedding party appeared from the shadows of the oaks, as perfect a moment as if it had been choreographed just for us. For a minute, the glamorous cliché wiped away the discomfiture that had plagued me all day. The opening of Attica Locke's second novel does precisely the opposite. She begins with an unsettling moment of fear and drama that tells us very clearly we're not in Tara any more. There is, literally, a snake in the garden of Eden. The Cutting Season is set in the fictitious Belle Vie plantation, where the magnificent antebellum mansion sits uneasily cheek by jowl with the restored slave quarters. Like its inspiration, Oak Alley, Belle Vie is a combination of museum and venue for parties and conferences. Local African Americans enact the roles of slaves in a sanitised interpretation of the plantation's dark history. In one of the book's many compelling ironies, in its current iteration Belle Vie is managed by a black woman, Caren Gray. It's her job to make sure everything runs smoothly, from maintenance of the grounds to the historical tableaux staged for the public. It's a job for which Caren is overqualified, but she's a single mother with limited options in a struggling economy. For Caren, Belle Vie's history is more than just another chapter in the tormented past of the American south. Her own mother worked at the house when it was still the family home of the Clancys. But the past has a longer reach than that – Caren is directly descended from Belle Vie slaves, notably a notorious runaway called Jason. These days, the plantation's existence is precarious. Income doesn't match outgoings, and the conglomerate whose sugar-cane operation surrounds the now-meagre acreage have plenty of cash to tempt the Clancys to walk away from their history and sell up. But when murder comes to Belle Vie, it appears to have nothing to do with anyone connected to the plantation. When the groundsman discovers a woman in a shallow grave by the property boundary, Caren soon discovers that the brutally murdered victim was a migrant worker on the cane-cutting operation on the other side of the fence. Her determination to make sure the woman's death is taken seriously becomes the engine that propels her into levels of danger she has never imagined. Locke was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her first novel, Black Water Rising, which similarly concerned itself with the black experience in recent American history. So it's no surprise that the slave past is a vivid part of the present-tense investigation. Locke is too subtle a writer to draw our attention to the parallels, but they're clear in the way the inquiry into the murder unfolds. For Caren, it's like being the ribbon on a tug-of-war rope. Her loyalties are in conflict, her instincts pull her away from her best interests, and at the heart of it all lies threat. Her child, her future and her own life are cast into jeopardy as she tries to negotiate a safe path through the complicated jungle of Belle Vie's history. It's a novel rich in atmosphere, strong in story, but at its heart The Cutting Season hinges on human complexity. The tangled rope of some kind of history has a stranglehold on everyone at the heart of this book, and their relationships give it a texture that reminds us why we come tofiction rather than the historical account. There are solutions here but no easy answers for Caren Gray, or for the rest of us. At the close of this book, I couldn't help remembering the souvenir shops in the showpiece plantation houses. How we've managed to bring frivolity to places that were home to so much human misery. And I felt ashamed. Irresistibly reminiscent of Faulkner's resigned maxim, "The past is never dead. It's not even past", The Cutting Season does what the best crime fiction is can do: it illuminates our present in the light of our past and explains us to ourselves. On this evidence, Attica Locke is more than capable of that. And also of leaving us on the edge of our seats, hearts in our mouths. Val McDermid's The Vanishing Point is published by Little Brown.

Kirkus Review

A lush plantation is the scene of what could be the perfect murder. As manager of Belle Vie, an antebellum estate 50 miles south of Baton Rouge and an equal distance from New Orleans to the east, Caren Gray burns the candle at both ends. She supervises the staff and produces weddings and parties at the plantation while trying to raise her preteen daughter, Morgan. Also under her supervision is a historical play called The Olden Days of Belle Vie, which keeps the memory of 19th-century Louisiana alive for better or worse. Currently in a rebellious phase, Morgan plays her father, Eric, who's estranged from Caren and has moved to Chicago for a job, against her mother. Fieldworker Luis' discovery of a body facedown in a shallow, makeshift grave complicates an already challenging day for Caren. The victim is a young woman, her throat slit. Local police swarm Belle Vie as Caren confronts the problem of missing actor Donovan Isaacs, unwelcome freeloader Bobby Clancy and Morgan's customary moods. After she finds blood on her daughter's blouse, Caren goes into defensive mode when Morgan's explanations are iffy. As Detective Jimmy Bertrand and his team dig deeper, everyone at Belle Vie gets edgier. Locke's second novel (Black Water Rising, 2009) is written with fluidity and elegance, evoking the uniqueness of her setting and the nuances in the relationships of her characters, complicated by race, class and history. Her whodunit plot often seems like a MacGuffin but could well strike readers as a bonus.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In this atmospheric follow-up to Black Water Rising (2009), Locke once again confronts matters of race and conscience. Some days, Caren Gray can hardly believe she is still rooted to Belle Vie, the Louisiana plantation where she grew up, where her mother was a cook and her great-great-great-grandfather was a slave. Now the single mother to a nine-year-old daughter, she manages the showplace, which has long been owned by the prosperous Clancy family and is a popular site for weddings and banquets. Despite the beauty of the house and grounds, Caren still feels uneasy whenever she visits the former slave quarters, a stark reminder of the antebellum plantation's notorious past. When a cane worker is found with her throat slit, Caren is drawn into the investigation as the police target one of her employees as the murderer. Soon, though, Caren learns some rather unsavory information about the Clancy family and their nefarious dealings in both the past and the present. This is a nuanced look at the South's tragic past and one strong woman's stand against ingrained cultural and economic oppression.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

As she managed to do so well in her first novel, "Black Water Rising," Locke draws on the past to remind her characters how much it has shaped their identities and how much it continues to shape the choices they make. The de facto historian at Belle Vie is Caren Gray, who grew up there as the daughter of a plantation cook and has been this tourist attraction's general manager ever since she and her 9-year-old daughter left New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Although Caren is almost frighteningly self-possessed, her sang-froid is shaken when she stumbles over the body of a murdered migrant worker employed by the giant sugarcane operation adjacent to Belle Vie. The police are quick to suspect Donovan Isaacs, a member of the troupe of actors who perform a scripted re-enactment of the plantation's role in the Civil War. In coming to Donovan's defense, Caren is startled to discover that this young firebrand - entrusted with such deathless dialogue as: "Dem Yankee whites can't make me leave dis here land. Dis here mah home. Freedom weren't meant nothing without Belle Vie" - recently quit school to film his own corrective version of local history. For a character so smart and so appealing, Caren is astonishingly dense about a lot of things that are going on behind her back. Even more astounding is her disinclination to follow up on the shocking revelations that bring the mystery to a close. But if the schematic plot and dangling resolution speak badly for Locke's construction values, the language of her storytelling is sturdy and absorbing. Who can resist the opening scene of a wedding in which a cottonmouth "measuring the length of a Cadillac" falls from a live oak into the lap of the bride's future mother-in-law, then is brushed away with the observation that "it only briefly stopped the ceremony, this being Louisiana after all." Scandinavian sadism, which took a nose dive after the untimely death of Stieg Larsson, perked up when the Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen muscled onto the scene with "The Keeper of Lost Causes," which devised a special cold-case division called Department Q for a maverick homicide cop named Carl Morck. Although relegated to the basement and presented with a Syrian maintenance man as an assistant, Morck managed to find a female politician who had been kept captive and starved for five years. Morck and his colleague, Assad, are still in the basement in THE ABSENT ONE (Dutton, $26.95), but they've been joined by Rose Knudsen, a gifted researcher who never made it out of the police academy but proves invaluable on an investigation involving a group of Copenhagen millionaires who get erotic thrills from tracking and killing exotic animals. Adler-Olsen may lack Larsson's political passion, but he brings great inventiveness to descriptions of the techniques of torture, which keeps the sadistic brutality from becoming repetitive or even (God help us) dull. There's nothing shameful about love, so no reader should feel embarrassed about mourning the loss of a beloved sleuth like Marshal Guarnaccia, the kindly detective who figured in the Florentine mysteries of Magdalen Nabb, who died in 2007. But Florence is still in good hands, entrusted to a private investigator named Sandro Cellini, who keeps a wary eye on the ancient city in a string of mysteries by Christobel Kent. It took me a while to catch up with the "impatient, irascible, impetuous" Cellini, who is more temperamentally akin to Aurelio Zen, the detective in Michael Dibdin's politically charged mysteries. THE DEAD SEASON (Pegasus, $25.95) isn't the first book in this series, but it's a terrific introduction to the intractable problems of a modern-day city plagued by illegal immigrants, an exhausted economy and a broken system of government. Call them what she will, Laura Lippman's out-of-series "mysteries" tend to be extended character studies of interesting women caught up in unusual circumstances that can get a little dicey without posing a convincing threat to life, limb or personal happiness. AND WHEN SHE WAS GOOD (Morrow/HarperCollins, $26.99) runs true to form, but as usual, the circumstances are so extraordinary that the absence of tension tends to be forgotten - if not forgiven. Heloise Lewis, the heroine of Lippman's latest nota-mystery, is a single mother with an 11-year-old son who keeps an extremely low profile in her suburban Maryland community. She calls herself a "socially progressive libertarian," lobbies on behalf of underemployed women and belongs to an unorthodox, and highly entertaining, church. But behind the scenes, Heloise is actually the madam of a high-priced call girl operation that requires an authorial struggle to turn into something capable of attracting a serious criminal element. Without taking away from the nice character profiling, Lippman's effort falls flatter than Heloise's attempt to play at being a soccer mom. Attica Locke's mystery opens with a snake falling into the lap of the brides future mother-in-law.

Library Journal Review

Caren Gray faces down the ugly history of slavery daily-she manages the Belle Vie plantation for its owners, the Clancy family. For generations, her family worked for the Clancys, and she and her nine-year-old daughter found refuge here after Hurricane Katrina. Caren's routine of coordinating school tours, weddings, and banquets is interrupted by the grisly discovery of a migrant worker's body on the property. The police zero in on a suspect, but Caren is unconvinced they have their man. Her investigation unearths more than she bargained for-and she realizes how widespread the repercussions of slavery still ripple. VERDICT Locke's second novel (after 2009's Black Water Rising) is a layered, nuanced mystery with a social conscience. Weaving legal, social, historical, and economic elements into the story of a changing family, it's a good choice for readers who enjoy multifaceted mysteries with a strong female protagonist and that blur genre distinctions. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/12; author Dennis Lehane picked this title as his first selection for his eponymous imprint at HarperCollins.-Ed.]-Amy -Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.