Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
The Cutting Season is the second book by the Orange Prize and Edgar Award nominated author. Her first novel Black Water Rising when published was lauded as one of the best debut crime novels to be written that year. With such accolades, it is not surprising that one might wonder if the author will manage to pull it off second time around…
The novel is set on a Louisiana plantation that is no longer a working farm but historically preserved and used for various functions. The manager is Caren Gray who has been in charge of the estate for a number of years. Her family history and that of the Clancy family (owners of the estate) are closely entwined. When a body of a migrant worker mysteriously turns up near the sugar cane fields, she soon finds herself with a police homicide investigation taking place. Questions arise as to who is the mysterious woman and where did she come from? As Caren becomes involved in the life of the dead woman, she makes a series of discoveries that reveal the dark past of the plantation.
The Cutting Season is, on the one hand, a murder mystery and on the other, a story that is steeped in history. The grim history of owning slaves before and after the American Civil War; the mysterious disappearance of one of Caren Gray’s own ancestors and the shattering discoveries that are made along the way. Whilst the murder mystery story is at the heart of this novel, what makes it so fascinating is the way in which the author has managed to entwine a lot of social history about the South into the story as well. The Cutting Season deals with politics, race relations, family, love and the law. It is a testament to her skill as a writer that she has not allowed these topics to overpower the novel but she also does not flinch from discussing them especially as they do have an important part to play.
There is a richness in The Cutting Season and combining it with a sense of place makes it a thoroughly engrossing and poignant book to read. This book needs to be read more than once. Brilliant!