Caren Gray has returned to her knotted, complicated roots ont he plantation of Belle Vie. Generations of her family have lived on this land, some under the heavy oppression of slavery. Now Caren is the caretaker and manager of the estate that is no loner inhabited. It is rented for parties and weddings and other events — a ghost of its former self. The neighboring farm still grows and harvests sugarcane, but now migrant labor works the farm. Early one chilly morning Caren finds a female body half-buried along the fence line. Caren begins to conduct her own investigation, alongside the official one, to uncover even more secrets hidden by Belle Vie.
The novel deftly wanders through Caren’s past — her childhood at Belle Vie, her broken heart — present — her precocious daughter, her fierce commitment to the plantation — and future — what will become of the place she has fought to preserve. Embedded into this background is a Southern murder mystery.
Locke lays out a well-paced, complex and layered story without it feeling forced. Racism and slavery are not glossed over but neither do they overwhelm the story. Instead they act as a filter that sometimes blurs the edges of the truth. Locke’s prose is at once accessible and beautiful:
A reminder, really , that Belle Vie, its beauty, was not to be trusted.
That beneath its loamy topsoil, the manicured grounds and gardens, two centuries of breathtaking wealth and spectacle — a stark beauty both irrepressible and utterly incapable of even the smallest nod of contrition — lay a land both black and bitter, soft to the touch, but pressing in its power. She should have known that one day it would spit out what it no longer has use for, the secrets it would no longer keep. ~Pg. 4
She also has an occasional zing of wicked humor.
The guest chairs in his office matched the carpet, which matched the buttered-beige color of the walls. The décor was attractive and strong, but blander than she would have thought his wealth and position afforded him. Caren couldn’t see the point of having that much money if all of it led to beige. ~Pg. 133
I look forward to reading more by Attica Locke. She seems like an author who still has a great deal to say. And she says it well. She has an uncanny ability to point out inequity without pointing fingers. The blame is obvious within the context and her wisdom is enough to make her point clear.
Readers who enjoy modern murder mysteries, with a hint of history, should certainly check out The Cutting Season.
Many thanks to the folks at Harper for the review copy.
On Sale: 9/18/2012
Trimsize: 6 x 9
$25.99; Ages: 18 and Up