I loved Locke’s debut novel, Black Water Rising. I had the pleasure of chatting with her when it was published back in 2010; Locke was shortlisted for the Orange Prize that year. When we spoke she told me she was already working on her second novel, set in contemporary Louisiana. So I was pretty excited when the Serpent’s Tail team sent on a copy of the finished product, The Cutting Season.
Caren Gray oversees the running of Belle Vie, a preserved historic plantation house and its surrounding grounds, museum, gift shop, and staff. Despite her intention to pursue a career in law, Caren finds herself back at Belle Vie.
Family ties bring her and her young daughter, Morgan, back to the plantation where she spent her childhood. Her late mother, Helen, worked as a cook for the landowning Leland Clancy. Caren grew up alongside Leland’s son, Bobby; a friendship that stopped abruptly when white, wealthy Bobby reached his teenage years and felt Southern society looking skeptically on his relationship with the daughter of the house’s black ‘help’. A rejection Caren still carries with her, tucked away alongside painful memories of her fractured relationship with her late mother.
Now though, she rules the roost. So when the body of a migrant worker is discovered on the border of Belle Vie, Caren is suddenly a suspect. She is drawn into the investigation; lured by the tragedy and a misplaced sense of responsibility.
Locke crafts suspense in each chapter. She places characters and tidbits of their background at just the right pace and timing.
Danny, the academic obsessed with Belle Vie’s history who has a spare key to the ground; Donovan, the righteous young black man determined to re-tell the plantation’s history; Owens, the local reporter found snooping on the grounds late at night; even Caren’s young daughter Morgan comes under scrutiny in this clever whodunnit.
I’m a fan. More from Locke please!