Cut Short by Leigh Russell is the author's first novel. Earlier this year she joined the Curzon Group, a group of authors promoting the Great British thriller and, having read Richard Jay Parker's first offering, Stop Me, I decided to investigate more from the group. The book arrived, along with four others and it was heading for the TBR pile, but one night, when sleep eluded me, I thought I'd just take a peek at the first chapter from this debut author. By the morning, I was a third in and the rest was read over two sittings.
Cut Short introduces DI Geraldine Steel, recently promoted and newly arrived in the town of Woolsmarsh with baggage she would prefer to work through in private. She's straight into a case and it soon becomes obvious that the first strangled victim will not be the last, so it's a race against time. Scenes of investigation are cut through with chapters from the killer's point of view and it is possible to guess early on what the problem is. And, sadly, the novel draws on a contemporary issue that has become something of a theme in today's society when it comes to mental health problems.
The strengths of this novel lie in the author's powerful ability to sweep you up into the story and produce a cast of cameo characters that all feel real. The chapters are short and we may not dwell upon each victim's family or each witness's circumstances, but what we get is enough to feel the reality of a police investigation. Colin Dexter once said that his brother was his greatest critic. He had told him that he liked his books because of their short chapters, leading to the fact that he could read one before falling asleep. I found the opposite with Cut Short; it's a case of 'I'll just read the next one'. That then turns into 'the next one' and so on. It's an easy read with the strength of the story at its core.
However, the novel could have been better served in the editing process because it is an unintentionally and slightly jarring read on times, requiring a re-read of paragraphs. One example would be the DI and her DS in the home of a witness who are suddenly back at the station with neither a gap in the text nor an introduction to their movement at the start of the relevant paragraph. Whilst adverbs do not litter the text, they appear more than a reader would normally see. But these small gripes are overcome by the power this story has to scoop you up for the duration and for which you might find yourself wanting to be ASAP to the resolution.
As mentioned earlier, it is the start of a series and once you reach the final page, you will find loose ends. These relate, in the main, to Geraldine's private life, so the next novel will obviously be more in the life of this 37 year old Detective Inspector.
The back cover compares the author to a few others of some standing. I can't admit to reading any of them, but I'd agree to similarities to Lynda La Plante for her Prime Suspect TV series. This is a novel of coppers-in-action against the clock, but updated. Here we have less of the women having to prove themselves simply because they are women and more of a cohesive team spirit in a team that is headed by a female DCI and with a female DI at its centre.
If you want to be swept along with the story above all else, Cut Short is certainly a novel for you and I will be looking out for Russell's next in the series.