You often hear that you can never go home. From experience, I know that what you left behind is never the same as it was before. Often the return brings heartache, and then there are the times that bring terror.
In The Cutting Season by Attica Locke, we visit the Deep South and one of the Plantations of Old. Belle Vie is a huge place and a reminder of the past which includes generations of slavery. Caren Gray has gone home to Belle Vie where her mother and several ancestors put all they had into the home and the land. When the body of a young murdered woman is found, Caren finds herself in the middle of a mystery. It is one that could very well relate to the disappearance of one of her ancestors who went missing years before. Under suspicion herself, she works at trying to help find the answers. Little does she know, but there is more at stake than even she can imagine.
As she continues to look for answers, she finds her own past coming back to haunt her. Something is going on with her daughter, and the others at the plantation seem to know more of what is happening then they should. Can she find any answers before she becomes the prime suspect? What is the secret that it seems someone else is willing to kill for?
Locke has given us a beatific look at what the South is known for. The beauty of the lovely old plantations, and the grit and hard work of the slaves of another era are clear in the telling. She has delivered on the descriptions and the vision is easy to see, both the charm as well as the harm. Her visions come clear though the eyes of her characters as they struggle with the lives they lead as well as their reaction to the murder. Each still has an uneasy fear of the law, and it is quite telling in their different defense mechanisms, including that of Caren Gray.
The story is deep and creates a journey into the history of this centuries old plantation. It is well thought out and well told with an eye to detail. The creation of red herrings is twisted throughout the fabric of the story, taking away the usual easy guess as we try to depict who the bad guys are. She has shown us layers of badness, yet the murderer is the obvious winner in the desperation and vileness of his act.
If you enjoy history and suspense you will enjoy this novel. Locke has an uncanny way of taking you into the story without you even knowing until you are there. It is a skill to get the reader to feel the feelings and see the visions. She does that quite well.
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. It is full of history, and the characters just beg for commentary.