"The Cutting Season" by Attica Locke

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, I review Attica Locke's The Cutting Season as part of my column "The Criminal Kind."

Here's an excerpt:
"A labyrinth of intersecting histories and politics, The Cutting Season dexterously reveals its narrative threads in the best fashion of the genre: the ease of the storytelling belies the complexity and nuances of the story. When Inés Avalo, a migrant worker from a neighboring farm, is found murdered on the estate’s grounds, Belle Vie’s manager, Caren Gray, finds herself pulled into the investigation. The police suspect Donovan Isaacs, a young student who works part-time on the estate acting in historical recreation. The estate’s lawyer encourages Donovan to take a plea bargain for a lesser sentence, but Caren is convinced that he is innocent and that Belle Vie wants him to take the rap in order to cover something up. Looking into the dirt on Belle Vie, it turns out, also means dredging up her family’s own complex history with the land, including the unsolved disappearance of her great-great-great-grandfather, Jason, who had been a slave on the plantation prior to the Civil War and worked the land as a free man, but who vanished without a trace over a century ago.
The mysteries of The Cutting Season run much deeper than the identity of the murderer. Much of the book is concerned with who owns, and who is the author, of “history,” and Locke uses Caren Gray’s investigation as a means of scrutinizing the social record and public memory. The Cutting Season can be seen as part of a historical moment, along with Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, that reexamines not only America’s legacy of slavery, but also its cultural representation and misrepresentation. Unlike those movies, however, Locke doesn’t adopt a single interpretive strategy. Instead, there is a meta-consciousness to her book. She sees discrepancies as sites of meaning and insight — historical inaccuracy as a vehicle for understanding not only what certain parties want to see in the past, but also what they fear from it."

Read the full review here. 

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