When Rilke, a dissolute auctioneer, comes upon a hidden collection of violent and highly disturbing photographs, he feels compelled to discover more about the deceased owner who coveted them. Soon he finds himself sucked into an underworld of crime, depravity and secret desire, fighting for his life.
Louise Welsh's writing is stylish and captivating; she combines aspects of a detective story with shades of the gothic. The result is a page-turning and deliciously original debut. The Cutting Room has won the Crime Writers Association award for debut crime novels, the John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and has been longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
Yet another talented Scottish author makes a debut with this dark and twisty thriller, boasting a highly unusual hero and a compelling background that shows extensive inside knowledge. The protagonist ("hero" is not quite the word) is Rilke, a promiscuously gay auction dealer working for a struggling Glasgow firm. On an appraisal call one day at the house of Roddy McKindless, a wealthy and recently deceased citizen, he comes across an extensive library of pornography, which includes pictures suggesting a "snuff" the slaughter of a woman for sexual purposes. Rilke finds himself, to his surprise, engaged in trying to find out who the girl in the picture was, and whether she was really killed. Using his seamy contacts in the city a pornographer, a girl who poses nude for eager "cameramen," a shady bookseller he sets out on his peculiar odyssey, pausing from time to time for a quick and wordless sexual encounter, and becoming engaged along the way in a plot with the glamorous and world-weary Rose, who runs his auction house, to abscond with the proceeds of a highly profitable sale. Rilke is hardly a likable character, but as Welsh presents him, he is so witty, self-aware and oddly vulnerable to the occasional decent instinct that he becomes disarming. The Glasgow color is expertly applied; Welsh obviously knows her auction business, and also how to keep an intriguing story moving. She is not good at action, however, and the actual climax, in which the mystery of McKindless's death is solved, is oddly muted and unconvincing. This is one of those books, however, in which the journey is infinitely more beguiling than the destination.