Caren Gray works as the manager for the Belle Vie estate, a sumptuous former Louisiana plantation turned into a tourist destination, where actors recreate the past on a nightly basis.
For Caren, who is raising a tween daughter alone, the job provides security and a refuge from the high-powered Washington life that broke up her marriage. Then a body turns up that upends everything, and that incident has Locke showing her literary mettle.
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Locke had impressed plenty, including me, with her debut Black Water Rising. One of those was the writer Dennis Lehane, who made The Cutting Season his inaugural pick for his new imprint.
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In Black Water Rising , Attica Locke delivered one of the most stunning and sure-handed fiction debuts in recent memory, garnering effusive critical praise, several award nominations, and passionate reader response. Now Locke returns with The Cutting Season , a riveting thriller that intertwines two murders separated across more than a century. Caren Gray manages Belle Vie, a sprawling antebellum plantation that sits between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the past and the present coexist uneasily. The estate's owners have turned the place into an eerie tourist attraction, complete with full-dress re-enactments and carefully restored slave quarters.
Outside the gates, a corporation with ambitious plans has been busy snapping up land from struggling families who have been growing sugar cane for generations, and now replacing local employees with illegal laborers. Tensions mount when the body of a female migrant worker is found in a shallow grave on the edge of the property, her throat cut clean.
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As the investigation gets under way, the list of suspects grows. But when fresh evidence comes to light and the sheriff's department zeros in on a person of interest, Caren has a bad feeling that the police are chasing the wrong leads. Putting herself at risk, she ventures into dangerous territory as she unearths startling new facts about a very old mystery - the long-ago disappearance of a former slave - that has unsettling ties to the current murder.
In pursuit of the truth about Belle Vie's history and her own, Caren discovers secrets about both cases - ones that an increasingly desperate killer will stop at nothing to keep buried. Taut, hauntingly resonant, and beautifully written, The Cutting Season is at once a thoughtful meditation on how America reckons its past with its future, and a high-octane page-turner that unfolds with tremendous skill and vision. With her rare gift for depicting human nature in all its complexities, Attica Locke demonstrates once again that she is "destined for literary stardom" Dallas Morning News.
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Reading Group Guide
Lehane [does]. Each is willing to use the murder mystery as a framework for much more ambitious, atmospheric fiction. Locke writes about Southern racial and class nuances in much the same way that Mr. Lehane sees those forces at work in Boston. Both authors specialize in apparently civilized settings where long-buried discord is always poised to erupt, usually with lethal consequences. Each is willing to use the murder mystery as a framework for much more ambitious, atmospheric fiction.
Locke named her Gray.
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A little something else about Caren: She grew up at Belle Vie, where her mother was the cook. She has spent almost all her life there, but almost nobody on her staff knows it.
In a book that is set in , Caren has been managing the place only since She is so identified with New Orleans, where she spent her early adult years, that she is sometimes called Tulane.