The Cutting Season: A Novel

The Cutting Season - Attica Locke 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.Crime is not a genre I read very often but I had heard good things about Attica Locke. In fact, I own her previous novel, Black Water Rising, although typically I haven't got around to reading it yet. I'd seen some positive reviews of Cutting Season on other blogs and the setting of the book really appealed. On our American honeymoon last summer, my husband and I spent a few weeks in Louisiana and we visited lots of those old plantation homes and there is something about the history and atmosphere of such places that I thought would make for a great crime story. And that atmosphere was conveyed excellently in the book by Locke, it had an almost gothic, sinister feel which helped build suspense throughout.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.