The Cutting Season by Attica Locke is a fresh take on Southern Gothic literature. It is a fast-paced murder mystery that zooms in on the intersection and continued entanglement of history and modernity in the American South. Locke — a television screenwriter best known for Empire — places the reader so completely in the South that you can almost feel the suffocating humidity and see the dappled light through hanging Spanish moss. Locke looks at law enforcement and racism through the themes of history, family, and politics while telling the gripping tale of a woman killed too young and a justice system that may fail her.
In the novel, it is the early years of Barack Obama’s administration, and Caren, a young Black mother, is the manager of Belle Vie, a rural Louisiana sugarcane plantation turned historic tourist attraction, where her ancestors were once enslaved. One morning, while making her daily rounds, Caren discovers a young woman’s body buried on the property, and her world is thrust into chaos. Soon, a full investigation into the murder is in the process and one of her staff members has gone missing. Caren is forced to face both her family’s history and the fate of the plantation’s murky future.