A review of Cut Short by Leigh Russell

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Cut Short
By Leigh Russell
No Exit Press, 1 July 2009

Leigh Russell’s debut crime novel is told with a satisfying sleight-of-hand, while at novel’s end the global sense is that one has watched a flat pack being slowly assembled, each part clicking perfectly into place.

There is much to admire and appreciate about Cut Short. What strikes one immediately is how the perspective shifts from the world of the everyday (‘normal life’, as it were), to the world as seen by a disturbed killer, to the world of a police investigation of some urgency. One is made aware also that these three spheres intersect; that on the periphery of one, the others exist.

Russell’s protagonist, DI Geraldine Steel of the Murder Investigation Team, is a triumph: a driven career woman, workaholic, uncommonly intuitive, often lonely. One advantage of Steel’s characterization is that we have been spared an extended description and explanation of her taste in music, food or clothes. And nor have we been presented with the odd zany detail: Steel does not have a troupe of cats named after jazz greats, for example, or a friend with a predilection for t-shirts with ‘amusing’ slogans. Such distracting nonsense has spoiled good, even otherwise great, crime novels in the past.

As well as Steel, there is a diverse mix of characters (including some stock characters too it has to be said; which is maybe inevitable in the genre), all convincingly drawn. A good solid use is made of forensic pathology; the science here seems as authentic as in Peter Turnbull’s novels, say.

There are, by my reckoning, four typos or proofreading oversights that require attention; a fairly low percentage.

All in all, Cut Short is a pretty fine police procedural, with a convincing if disconcerting feel of contemporary Britain.

Breaking news: Cut Short has just been shortlisted for the internationally prestigious Crime Writers’ Association 2010 John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award http://www.thecwa.co.uk/daggers/2010/newblood.html

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com