The Cutting Season
Review copy from Dennis Lehane Imprint
In between Baton Rouge, and New Orleans in present day, Louisiana lies a part of American history in the south, Belle Vie, a slave plantation.
Outside the gate of Belle Vie, are the migrant workers. They are hired for cutting the sugar cane outside the gate by Groveland Industry. The Clancy family have inherited Belle Vie from one generation to the next.
A body of a female migrant worker is found outside the gates of Belle Vie plantation. The plantation, at present day intersects with historical reconstruction south. There are guided tours, re-enactments, and weddings, slave quarters, and a gift shop.
Caren, and her daughter, Morgan have recently returned to Belle Vie, from New Orleans. There is a long history on Belle Vie plantation for Caren.
Caren's mother worked as a cook, she raised her on Belle Vie. Caren heard stories about the old plantation, about her great, great, grandfather. Growing up along the side of the landowners sons. Her mother, told her stories about her kin, and old stories in the civil war, and about her great, great, grandfather, Jason who lived on the plantation, and disappeared one day in 1871, and never found again.
What happened to her great, great, great, grandfather, a former slave. Could it be, he walked off with a lover, and left his married wife and children? Did the plantation owner, who are related to the present owner's have something to do with his death? There are lots of questions past and present that Caren, wants to find out. The two murders are related, but how?
Then, at the same time there is a large sugar cane corporation, called Groveland buying up land left and right from poor land owners. They are hiring people and replacing the local employees with migrant workers. Now instead of slaves, hired migrant working for penance.
The land owner's of Belle Vie, one of the brother's is looking for political gain for finally giving the land to the large corporation. The other brother, is the black sheep of the family, and looking out for the best interests of the family.
Caren is hired by the present owners of Belle Vie to run the plantation. This is very awkward for Caren, Caren's family, were known as hired hands, and as slaves during the civil war. Caren grew up on Belle Vie plantation. Caren felt shame about her history, and she feels ambivalent about herself living on Belle Vie, and being a Afro-American.
Living on the plantation with slave quarters, and the re-inactments, and seeing their quarters each day of a reminder of what happened during the civil war.
During the investigation, a young man going to the local community college is filming a movie.
He wants to make a re-inactment of what happened to the former slave. But, something goes amiss.
He is framed for the murder. Caren's boyfriend, Eric becomes involved a lawyer from D.C.
My Review: I read mostly literary fiction, not mysteries. But, I heard so much about this author and her book, Cutting Season. I needed a break from all the books, I have been reading lately, with deadlines. I decided to give it a try. I am so happy, I read Cutting Season.
The books I like to read are story telling, not so much character driven. I love a plain good story. I love lately, I discovered I love fiction that is caught up in a time period, and place with good story telling. I am not talking about kings and queens, they seem to be locked into history. But, a story with fictional characters, at certain time periods, and place for me to visit.
It did take me awhile to become attached to the characters. But, once I became invested with them, I could not let go. I am still thinking about Cutting Season. I hope there are more books by the author that delves into historical fiction with a mystery.
One part of the story with Eric, Caren's boyfriend was going into the slave quarters. Most people that are white don't think about this. How would you feel going into a part of history that caused you pain? I never understood that concept. But, also most authors, are white don't show that part of the story. It must have felt like a painful part of history thrown in your face.
This part of history hit home for me to understand what Afro Americans feel living in, and being surrounded by painful reminders.
I wonder how Afro Americans feel living and seeing their past every day over and over again. I live in South Carolina, and never thought how it hard it must be at times living in the south. Possibly the reason migration of Afro Americans leaving the south and moving up north.
Me, as a Jew, I understand how I would feel going to Poland, or Germany to the camps. That is why I have, never gone to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, because it is a painful reminder. I was not living during the holocaust, but it is still hard, if I had to visit Germany, Poland, Russia, etc. I am sure the same goes for Eric, Caren's boyfriend. He must have had the same feelings.
If you are looking for a good mystery, suspense, and historical fiction all wrapped up into one. Then this book is for you, I recommend it highly.