The Cutting Season

The Cutting Season

by Attica Locke

Paperback(Large Print)

$23.39 $25.99 Save 10% Current price is $23.39, Original price is $25.99. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, June 21


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® Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was short-listed for the Orange Prize in the U.K.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062201461
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/18/2012
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 8.90(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Attica Locke is the author of Black Water Rising, which was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the UK’s Orange Prize, and also the national bestseller The Cutting Season, which won an Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. She is a producer and writer on the Fox drama Empire. She is on the board of directors for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, where she lives.

Read an Excerpt

The Cutting Season

By Attica Locke

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Attica Locke
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-180205-8



Ascension Parish, 2009

It was during the Thompson-Delacroix wedding, Caren's first week on the job, that a cottonmouth, measuring the length of a Cadillac, fell some twenty feet from a live oak on the front lawn, landing like a coil of rope in the lap of the bride's future mother-in-law. It only briefly stopped the ceremony, this being Louisiana after all. Within minutes, an off-duty sheriff 's deputy on the groom's side found a 12-gauge in the grounds-keeper's shed and shot the thing dead, and after, one of the cater waiters was kind enough to hose down the grass. The bride and groom moved on to their vows, staying on schedule for a planned kiss at sunset, the mighty Mississippi blowing a breeze through the line of stately, hundred-year-old trees. The uninvited guest certainly made for lively dinner conversation at the reception in the main hall. By the time the servers made their fourth round with bottles of imported champagne, several men, including prim little Father Haliwell, were lining up to have their pictures taken with the viper, before somebody from parish services finally came to haul the carcass away.

Still, she took it as a sign.

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, 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 had use for, the secrets it would no longer keep.

The plantation proper sat on eighteen acres, bordered to the north by the river, and to the east by the raw, unincorporated landscape of Ascension Parish. To walk it - from the library in the northwest corner to the gift shop and then over to the main house, past the stone kitchen and the rose garden, the cottages Manette and Le Roy, the old schoolhouse and the quarters - took nearly an hour. Caren had learned to start her days early, while it was quiet, heading out before sunlight - having arranged for Letty to arrive by six a.m. at least three days a week, while Caren's daughter was still sleeping. Six mornings out of seven, she made a full sweep of the property, combing every square inch, noting any scuffed floors or dry flower beds or drapes that needed to be steamed - even one time changing the motor in one of the gallery's ceiling fans herself.

She didn't mind the work.

Belle Vie was her job, and she was nothing if not professional. Though she could in no way have prepared herself for the grisly sight before her now.

To the south and west, across a nearly five-foot-high fence, where Caren was standing, the back five hundred acres of the Clancy family's 157-year-old property had been leased for cane farming since before she was born. Over the fence line, puffs of gray smoke shot up out of the fields. The machines were out in the cane this morning, already on the clock. The mechanical cutters were big and wide as tractor trucks, fat, gassy beasts whose engines often disturbed the natural habitat, chasing rats and snakes and rabbits from their nests in the cane fields - and come harvest time each year, the animals invariably sought out a safe and peaceful living on the grounds of Belle Vie. Luis had run them out of the garden, cleared their fecal waste from his tool shed, and, on more than one occasion, trapped and bagged a specimen to take home for God knows what purpose. And now some critter had dug up the dirt and grass along the plantation's fence line and come up with this.

The body was face down.

In a makeshift grave so shallow that its walls hugged the corpse as snugly as a shell, as if the dead woman at Caren's feet were on the verge of hatching, of emerging from her confinement to start this life over again. She was coated with mud, top to bottom, her arms and legs tucked beneath her body, the spine in a curved position. The word fetal came to mind. Caren thought, for a brief, dizzying second, that she might faint. "Don't touch her," she said. "Don't touch a thing."

She'd been up since dawn, that cold Thursday morning. It was a day that had already gotten off to a wrong start, before she'd even stepped foot out of the house ... though for an entirely different reason. She'd woken up that morning to a message on her cell phone, one that had set off a minor staff crisis. Donovan Isaacs had had the nerve to call in sick for the third time in two weeks, this time leaving a nearly incoherent voice mail message on her phone at four o'clock in the morning, and keeping Caren in her pajamas for over an hour as she sent e-mails and placed phone calls, searching for a replacement. She didn't know if it was because she was a woman or black - a sister, as he would say - but she'd never had an employee make so little effort to impress her. He was chronically late and impossible to get on the phone, responding sporadically to text messages or nagging calls to his grandmother, with whom he lived while taking classes at the River Valley Community College and working here part-time. His salary, like those of the other Belle Vie Players, was paid by a yearly stipend from the state's Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, which made firing him a bureaucratic headache, but one she was no less committed to pursuing. But that was later, of course. Right now she needed a stand-in for the part of FIELD SLAVE #1. She was about a heartbeat away from making a call to the theater department at Donaldsonville High School, willing to settle for a warm body, at least, when finally, at a quarter to seven, Ennis Mabry returned one of her messages, saying he had a nephew who could take over Ennis's role as Monsieur Duquesne's trusty DRIVER, and Ennis could step in to play Donovan's part, which, he assured her, he knew by heart. "Don't worry, Miss C," he said. "The kids'll have they show."

Letty was on the kitchen phone when Caren came downstairs a few minutes later. She was standing over the stove, talking to her eldest daughter, a girl Caren had met only once, on a day when Letty's '92 Ford Aerostar wouldn't start and Gabriela had to drive all the way from Vacherie to come pick her up. She was a good kid, Letty reported at least once a week. She was on the honor roll, had held a job since she was fifteen, and didn't mess around with boys. And three days a week, Gabby made a hot breakfast for her younger brother and sister, packed their lunches, and drove them to school, all so her mother could come to work before dawn and do the very same for Caren's child. At the stove, Letty was hunched over a pot of Malt-O-Meal, talking about Gabby's little brother and speaking Spanish in a coarse whisper, only a few words of which Caren could make out at a distance: thermometer and aspirin and some bit about hot tea.

Caren had two school tours scheduled before lunch and a cocktail reception in the main house that evening, the menu for which had yet to be finalized. She couldn't do this day without Letty or her rusty van or the Herrera kids up and well enough for school. They were all tied together that way. Caren's life, her job, depended on Letty being able to do hers. She gave Letty's shoulder a warm squeeze before walking out, mouthing the words thank you and mentally making a list of all the creative ways she might make it up to her, knowing, in her heart, that any such token is worthless when your kid is sick. It was not something she was proud of, skipping out like that. But very little in Caren's life, at that point, was. Pride, as a method of categorizing one's personal life and history, was something she'd long given up on. There was her daughter, and there was this job.

The air outside was cold for October, and wet, still drunk from a late night rain that had soaked Belle Vie, and again she thought it was wise to warn the evening's host against outdoor seating. Still, she would need Luis to pull at least one of the heat lamps from the supply closet in the main house. A number of Belle Vie's paying guests liked to take an after-dinner brandy on the gallery, to say nothing of the smokers who routinely gathered there. The plantation had finally gone smoke-free the year before - in the main house, at least, and the guest cottages. Caren's living quarters, a two bedroom apartment on the second floor of the former garçonnière and overseer's residence - which also housed the plantation's historical records - still carried a heavy scent of burnt pipe tobacco, a faintly sweet aroma she had come to think of as home.

She had, for better or for worse, made a life here.

She had finally accepted that Belle Vie was where she belonged. Her work boots, a weathered pair of brown ropers, were waiting where they always were, just outside the library's front door. She slipped them over her wool socks, zipping a down jacket and pulling a frayed Tulane School of Law cap from the pocket. She slid the hat over her uncombed curls, feeling their thick weight against the back of her neck. On her right hip, she carried a black walkie-talkie.

On her left, a ring of brass keys rode on her belt loop, bumping and jangling against the flesh of her thigh as she started for the main gate. She'd cover more ground in less time if she borrowed the golf cart from security. The plan was to drive along the perimeter first, then double back, park by the guest cottages, and walk the quarters on foot. She was always careful not to leave tire tracks in the slave village.

She was responsible for even this detail.

It's not that Belle Vie wasn't well staffed.

There was a cleaning crew that came several times a week, more if there were guests in the cottages or events scheduled back-to-back on weekends. And Luis, who had been on the payroll since 1966 - when the Clancy family fully restored the plantation that had been in their family for generations - could probably run the place himself if he had to. Still, she was surprised by the little things that got overlooked. She once found a used condom on the dirt floor of one of the slave cottages. Drunken wedding guests, she had learned, were by far the horniest, most unscrupulous people on the planet: neither a sense of the macabre nor common decency would stop them once they got their minds set on something, or someone. And Caren didn't think any third-grader's first school field trip ought to include a messy, impromptu lesson about the mating habits of loose bridesmaids.

From high overhead, sunlight studded the green grass with bits of coral and gold, as she rode along beneath a canopy of aged magnolias that shaded the main, brick-laid road through the plantation; their branches were deep black and slick with lingering rainwater. Mornings like this, she didn't try to fight the romance of the place. It was no use anyway. The land was simply breathtaking, lush and pure. She drove past the gift shop, then north toward Belle Vie's award winning rose garden, which sat embedded within a circular drive just a few feet from the main house. The nearly two-hundred-year-old manse was held up by white columns, and adorned with black shutters and a wrought iron balcony that overlooked the river to the north and the garden to the south. Luis and his one-man maintenance crew had done a grand job with le jardin, coaxing rows of plum colored tea roses and hydrangeas into an unlikely fall showing. Mrs. Leland James Clancy, had she lived, would have been most proud.

All along the drive, Caren made mental notes.

The hedges in front of the guest cottages could stand a trim. And whatever the latest fertilizer formula or concoction Luis had sprinkled on the hill behind the quarters, it wasn't working. There was still a narrow patch of earth out that way - grown over the foundation of some building long forgotten and not appearing on any plantation map - that remained as stubbornly dull and dry as it had even when Caren was a kid, no matter what Luis tried. Food scraps and horse shit, or cold, salted water. Down by the quarters, grass simply refused to grow.

Caren was, at that moment, a mere thirty yards or so from a crime scene, but, of course, she didn't know it yet. She saw only the break in the land, where the earth had been disturbed. But from afar, it looked like a rabbit or a mole or some such creature had been digging up the ground along the fence line that separated the plantation from the cane fields - another problem, she thought, since the Groveland Corporation took over the lease on the "back five." Ed Renfrew, when his family farmed the land, always made a point to monitor his side of the fence. If a critter tore up the dirt or left any such blot on the landscape, he'd always tend to it right away. But Hunt Abrams, the project manager for the Groveland farm, had never uttered more than ten words to Caren, had never gone out of his way to acknowledge her existence.

She lifted the walkie-talkie from the waistband of her jeans, using it to alert Luis to the problem, telling him to get somebody out there to clean up the mess. "Sure thing, ma'am," he said.

Later, two cops would ask, more than once, how it was she didn't see her.

Excerpted from The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. Copyright © 2012 by Attica Locke. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Tayari Jones

The Cutting Season is a novel about the shifting definitions of family, the persistent pull of history, the sterling promise of home, and the stunning power of love. It pulled me in and held me close to the very last page.”

Dennis Lehane

“I was first struck by Attica Locke’s prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. . . . I’d probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine.”

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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.”

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Cutting Season: A Novel 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
I have a mental list of authors that I faithfully follow and I pick up everything they write. I know what I like and I have a good idea of what I'll be reading. But on the other side of that coin - picking up a book by an unfamiliar author is an adventure. The Cutting Season is Attica Locke's second book. I missed her debut novel - Black Water Rising - it won numerous prize nominations and lots of praise. But, after reading The Cutting Season, I can see why. Attica Locke is good -really good. Caren Gray and her young daughter have returned home to Belle Vie - the Louisiana plantation Caren was raised on. Her family history with Belle Vie stretches back to the days when her ancestors were slaves in the sugar cane fields. Now the plantation is a tourist attraction and Caren is the manager. It's not the path she wanted to pursue in life and she has mixed feelings about returning to the plantation. When an migrant worker is found murdered on the grounds, old and new wounds are opened - long buried history and new controversy. And Caren puts herself in the middle.... Locke drew me in immediately. I was of course caught up in the present day whodunit. There are lots of suspects and the path to the answer is winding. But, at the same time, Caren is caught up in the disappearance of her ancestor Jason, one hundred years ago. Locke skillfully weaves the unravelling of both narratives together. The mysteries are intriguing, but I enjoyed Locke's exploration of race, politics, business, history and yes, love, just as much. The juxtaposition of abolished slavery and the plight of migrant workers today provides much food for thought. The character of Caren came across as 'real'. Her own uncertainties, her relationship with her daughter, her ex and her coworkers all rang true. All of the supporting characters were just as well drawn. Having worked as a historical interpreter I enjoyed the descriptions of the cast and their dialogue. Locke's prose are wonderfully rich and atmospheric and brought her settings to life. "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, and pressing in its power. She should have known that one day it would spit out what it no longer had use for, the secrets it would no longer keep.” For this reader, a winner on all fronts. (And I'll be hunting down that first book!) Locke has been added to my 'list'. Dennis Lehane has picked The Cutting Season as the first book for his new imprint for Harper Collins. "I was first struck by Attica Locke's prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. After just two novels, I'd probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The South and the complicated emotions those words connate come alive in this engrossing tale whose characters and way of life come to true life. This tales not hard to belive and neither is Bel Vie.
Ruthless More than 1 year ago
I loved the setting: a restored plantation in Louisiana and the bits of real history woven into the story. The characters, especially Caren & her daughter, are not well developed. I think that each book by this author will get better, with time and experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this after seeing it in a list of recommended books for Christmas gifts. I am so glad I did. Caren, Mogan and the rest of the characters will draw you into the world of Belle Vie and the mysteries hidden there. Will definitely look forward to future books by the author.
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
Oh how I love the South; the plantations, the people, the mystery, the landscape, the politics and the history. The Cutting Season has all of those things and more. This novel has a two -for-one mystery that keeps you so intrigued that you don't want to put it down. The characters are real and I loved how the author explored their emotions, personal demons, love for one another, their home and their sense of belonging. I found it very interesting how Ms. Locke compared some of the struggles of yesterday's slaves to today's migrant workers, and society's ignorance in treating them as though they were/are less the human. In one word - Shameless! Great story and I look forward to reading Ms. Locke's other work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is part mystery part a historical novel; however never achieving either, always wishy washy in-between. The story kept me interested, so I guess it is okay. However, the characters are flat, the story line offers little surprises , and the end is a little strange. This book was recommended to me by someone who grew up around plantations. She love to revel in the memory. However, if you want to read a good book about plantations I would recommend 'The kitchen house'.
WindyDays More than 1 year ago
This book is okay. It has a really good plot.. But it just seems like a murder mystery where you keep looking and looking and looking... Typical.. Slightly boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is filled with great characters and a interesting mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book. Looking forward to more by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. I enjoyed the setting of the story especially after seeing the movie Lincoln. It is a mystery but somewhat a historical novel too. Just different setting for a change of pace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will put you to sleep many times before you complete it. It has about 25% of the text that is useless drivel that contributes nothing to the story. Slow and boring from start to finish. I did finish reading all of it, but it was painful, and oh so boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Good ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do not recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moving, beautiful, and sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Icould hardly put it down,so locked into the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read one of her other books; they are good! aj west
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
If you prefer prose that peppers your nose and wows you with wonder and awe, then you might find yourself having a grand time while reading about the Deep South, where the tea is always sweet, an afternoon rain happens daily, and the humidity is so thick you have to keep your head down and plow forward through the mist. With the opening line I was caught in time and found myself veering ahead with what might have been excitement mixed with hope. But alas she was a fairer lass than Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton who changed her mind at the drop of a dime, and I found myself rather chagrined with the story I was about to begin. It ended there this love affair, and I slogged through the rain in my poncho and galoshes, the rain splashing my face and assaulting my senses. I sneezed, and then sneezed again. The story could have been much more and something I could adore, but alas twas not meant to be, and so it shall go down in history as another two star read. What might have been much better in this little endeavor is if the plot and the ending matched the rest of the prose, instead of just taking me on a journey with atmosphere and vocabulary. What I discovered was a killer who spouted off a little too long in the mouth, and bequeathed our fair heroine with more than a few antidotes. If sugar cane and acid rain had mixed on the page and devoured this journey, tearing and ripping its way toward salvation, and extending the plot with more than a few thoughts, I might have found myself in the middle of THE CUTTING SEASON and happy to be placed out in the fields of labor. Instead, I feel I am the one who missed out on the fun, and now I must end this little simulation with a dance imitation and shuffle and grand production where the tourists with the t-shirts and flip-flops and backpacks shall endeavor to visit my plantation. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago