Somehow I missed Attica Locke's first book, "Black Water Rising" when it came out in 2010, but after reading her second book, "The Cutting Season," I am going to go back and read it and anything else she writes. "The Cutting Season" is a tightly-woven mystery/thriller, smart and atmospheric. The story is set on the old antebellum plantation of Belle Vie in Louisiana, now a tourist attraction hosting events and weddings, tours of the restored slave quarters and historical re-enactments.
Caren Gray, single mother and the estate manager grew up on Belle Vie--her ancestors were slaves, her mother worked as a cook and Caren has returned with mixed emotions but a commitment to her job and the estate. When the body of a young female migrant worker is found on the estate grounds it soon has Caren doubting the way the police investigation is headed and launching her own search for answers-including whether this murder is related to the disappearance of a slave one hundred years previously, and one of Caren's ancestors. Caren finds herself deeper and deeper into discovering the killer, long-buried secrets about the estate and her own past.
Locke's descriptive writing had me caught up in the gloom of Belle Vie from the first page and that creepiness never lets up throughout the book. There is so much covered in the book--history, slavery, politics, corporate greed, family, and emotions, but it adds to, rather than bogs down the story. The almost 400 pages pass quickly and had me guessing about "who done it" until very close to the end. "The Cutting Season" is a great choice for lovers of history, the south, and taut, intelligently written mysteries.
A native of Houston, Texas,
Attica Locke now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and
daughter. She is a member of the board of directors for the Library
Foundation of Los Angeles. Locke has spent many years working as a screenwriter, penning movie and
television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth
Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, and Dreamworks. She was a
fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a
graduate of Northwestern University.
For my dish inspired by the book, although food is not a key player in this mystery, there was certainly some Southern cooking sprinkled in throughout the book. I took my inspiration from a menu for 85 guests that Caren is discussing with the kitchen staff toward the beginning of the book--mushroom soup to start and "gator, grits rolled with smoked gouda, spinach, and bacon; chad out of the garden with garlic and lemon; potatoes creamed with butter and drippings." Ending with peach cobbler--perfectly sweet and Southern.
Peach cobbler stuck in my head but rather than making one and slapping it directly on my hips, I chose a slightly healthier route and decided to make a peach smoothie. I am a crisp rather than a cobbler girl--loving that oat topping, so I made a vegan take on a Peach Crisp Smoothie. Good mysteries are always chilling--so a cold, creamy smoothie layered with a crunchy cinnamon oats and almond mixture seemed to be a good fit. ;-)
Peach Crisp Smoothie
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
Oatmeal-Almond Crisp Topping:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 Tbsp Earth Balance or butter spread
Pulse almonds and oats in a food processor until very coarsely ground. Mix in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat butter spread in a small pan over medium heat. Add almond-oat mixture and cook until lightly browned, stirring often. Set aside
Peach Smoothie Base:
3 cups frozen peaches
1 medium banana
1/2 cup yogurt (I used a vanilla coconut milk based yogurt)
1/2 cup (or more if needed) coconut milk
2 Tbsp peach jam or preserves (Or honey)
1 tsp cinnamon
In blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Add additional coconut milk as needed to make it a pourable texture.
To Serve: Layer smoothie and topping into large glasses. Serve immediately with a large straw and a spoon.
Notes/Results: Mmm... this totally hit the spot. With the peach jam, the flavor and sweetness of the peaches really came through. The banana and yogurt made it thick and creamy. The bigger the better in terms of a straw here--the topping gets a little stuck but you can always spoon it up. Sure there is some vegan "butter" and sugar in this but I am counting it as my fruit servings for the day and therefore it is health food. ;-) I will make this again.
Note: A review copy of The Cutting Season was provided by the publisher
and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.