Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Cutting" by James Hayman

Detective Michael McCabe is the head of a Maine police force investigating the murder of a high-school girl, whose body has been discovered with her heart removed. Now another woman is missing, and the belief is that the two cases could be linked. Thanks to his convenient photographic memory (or something similar - the novel insists it's something a little different), Michael believes that there are several unsolved murders out there with the same M.O. and that a serial killer is on the loose.

The investigation soon leads Michael to Dr. Philip Spencer, who heads up an organ transplant team at the hospital. Since the killer seems to display surgical knowledge and precision, there is the possibility that the victims are linked to some sort of black market organ transplant scheme. The doctor insists that isn't possible, but as McCabe's team track down leads, it appears that there are more than a few skeletons in the doctor's closet and a black market organ transplant conspiracy isn't out of the question, nor the possibility that the killer is enjoying a few fringe benefits with the selected victims.

"The Cutting" is another so-called serial killer thriller that is happy to coast along on pre-established genre conventions to generate its so-called suspense. There is absolutely nothing here that you couldn't find elsewhere. For example, the idea of an organ transplant conspiracy has already been done to much better effect in "Harvest" by Tess Gerritsen - and that was written fifteen years ago! Obviously, the crime genre is going to revisit material that has been done before, but that doesn't mean the author can't find some way to shock or surprise the reader. "The Cutting" presents a couple of theories and a couple of suspects and then fails to go anywhere else with the premise. Short chapters from the point of view of the latest kidnapped victim do little to amp up the tension or suspense. We know so little about her, and considerably little time is given to developing her character, so you simply aren't drawn into her plight.

The other huge fault here - and a considerable cause for concern - is the ease in which the author links homosexuality with every conceivable sexual deviation. The idea strongly presented here is that if a guy is gay, it's only a short step to rape, murder and torture - of either gender! Once the killer's identity is revealed, absolutely no motive is given to his propensity for raping and torturing women that are to be harvested for organs. He's bisexual, so obviously he's only one step away from being a sick, vicious killer! Don't worry, I'm not spoiling anything - there is never any question that the killer is male. But every single character in this book who isn't heterosexual is presented as a twisted psychopath.

There is little to recommend "The Cutting". It's unoriginal, homophobic and suspenseless. There is no attempt by the author to mix things up or explore new territory. With so much else out there competing for your attention, this one should be cut from any future reading lists.

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