Attica Locke's second novel is a keeper. If you like thrillers set in the deep south, (Louisiana, in this case), The Cutting Season is for you. It's better than most of the genre, though, because it's told from the view of a black woman who is NOT a police officer or private eye. Caren Gray is the manager of Belle Vie, a plantation that now offers a venue for weddings, parties and meetings. Tours of Belle Vie feature a play with a sanitized version of its history and the slaves that lived there.
Caren's great-great-great-great grandfather was a field slave at Belle Vie during the Civil War and he stayed on once he was freed because the plantation was the only link he had to his wife. She had been sold before the War. She does find her way back to Belle Vie and all should be fine but Jason, Caren's ancestor, disappears under mysterious circumstances. He is supposed to have walked away from work and have never been seen again. Foul play is suspected
The murder of an illegal female field worker provides the present puzzle and suspense but connects to revelations about the loss of Jason five generations earlier. Sub-plots involve Caren's daughter, Morgan, her relationship with Morgan's father and the racial tension that is still part of the deep south.
Books by John Grisham and Greg Iles have plumbed similar territory but the link to the past and the point-of-view of a slave's descendent and all the emotion that involves make this story unique.
I'll be looking for Attica Locke's first novel Black Water Rising. It, like The Cuttiing Season explores social, cultural and historical issues that underlie many of the problems in the present USA but does it with a plot that speeds right along.
Ever been to Eastend, Saskachewan? No? Me, neither, although years ago I was in the Cypress Hills on the Alberta side. Eastside lies on the Frenchman River on the border of the Cypress HIlls Interprovincial Park. Subtly Candace Savage leads us into the story. She and her partner Keith come to Eastend via Cody, Wyoming and are booked into the Wallace Stegner House for two weeks. That stay is the beginning of a lyrical journey into the past.
They have to return to their home in Saskatoon but they are drawn back by the mystical lure of geography and history. They buy a bungalow in Eastend and so it begins.
Bit by bit, Candace uncovers its geology. The earth strata reveal the past to her when she learns to interpret them. There is a T. Rex museum that houses one of the largest T. Rex skeletons ever found. The hills abound with fossils and the ancient earth history leads to the evidence of more recent times. There are the teepee rings, ghosts of the First Nations people, the Buffalo Hunters, the Wolfers and the NWMP.
Ms. Savage comes to realize that the history of the west didn't start with one huge empty continent and a contingent of determined pioneers who overcame formidable obstacles to tame and settle the land. The land was already filled with indigenous people who had their own religion, culture and intricate way of life. A way of life that had evolved with the ecology of the Cypress Hills. Then she hooks you. A great civilization fell when the buffalo disappeared and the Indians were caught between the old and new worlds. The new world did not treat them well.
Crazy Horse may have camped near Eastend on his desperate flight from the US cavalry after the Battle of Greasy Grass Plains, better know as the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer's Last Stand. The fur trade was plied here and later the whiskey trade. The NWMP police was formed and a some of the newly minted force spent three years in Chimney Coulee near Fort Walsh. A band of starving Indians made a camp there. For twenty years before the Pemmican trade collapsed with the demise of the buffalo, there was a Metis settlement. Big Bear's starvation camp was nearby as he defied the Americans and Canadians. He refused to sign treaties for as long as he could. Many of his tribe starved.
If this sounds garbled, it's because the book is fascinating and impossible to describe adequately in these few words. It is a book that I will re-read and that is high pr Candace Savage's A Geography of Blood will inform you, entertain you and make you cry. Don't miss it.
PS- We have already planned out summer vacation in Eastend.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.