Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Cutting RoomThe Cutting Room by Louise Welsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very good book. The uniformly excellent writing transcends the usual standards of the genre. Most of the characters are vividly and realistically portrayed. The main character, Rilke, is an antique auctioneer in Glasgow. Other characters, for example Mrs. McKindless, Rose (Rilke's boss), or Les (a drug dealer) come through like real people as well.

"Cutting Room" is, at once, much more and much less than a mystery novel/crime drama. More, because it is so much better written than 95% of the genre's output. Less, because the criminal plot is not that important. I have not been impressed with the subject matter; snuff pornography and casual gay sex do not tickle my fancy. However, these gruesome subjects are handled in a mature, non-titillating way, even if perhaps overly graphic.

Why not five stars then? First, because of the pretentiousness of preceding each chapter with a fragment of a famous poem. Ms. Welsh's writing is good enough to not require crutches of quotes from other famous writers. Second, because the people and places in "Cutting Room" are described incisively yet clinically, and to my taste, they lack a human touch. I have read Denise Mina's books about Glasgow. They show the place as equally grim and forbidding, yet Ms. Mina shows her characters with more sympathy and compassion.

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