“Going, going, going, gone!”
Rilke is a 47 year old gay man who works as the head auctioneer for Glasgow’s Bowery Auction House. He describes himself in the book as “a man too tall, too thin, too cadaverous to look anything other than a vampire on the make.” As the blurb states, Rilke walks a moral tightrope between good and bad, saint and sinner. He is a man who has a tendency to stick his nose in places where it is not welcomed.
Rose Bowery – inherited Bowery Auctions from her father. She has worked alongside Rilke for decades and they are a good team. Rose has a long-standing personal relationship with Anderson, an inspector with Police Scotland who also happens to be a childhood friend of Rilke.
“Rose and I had been partners in crime for over half my life. Her recklessness called to some chivalrous part of me. I would not let her down.”
An acquaintance of Rilke’s gives him a tip that there is a country house that needs clearing in Galloway. He and Rose investigate and procure the sale of the valuable contents of Ballantyne House, the home of an elderly concert pianist. They are dealing with the old lady’s son and nephew who say that the old woman needs to be put in a nursing home and they are selling the house to raise funds for her continued care.
Their time at Ballantyne House raises several questions in Rilke’s mind. Some unethical and unsavory characters threaten the very existence of Bowery Auctions and puts Rilke and Rose in grave physical danger.
Having not read “The Cutting Room“, the award-winning 2002 novel which introduced the character Rilke, I was unsure if I should be jumping in with “The Second Cut“. I needn’t have worried, as this novel holds up very well as a stand-alone. And be warned, it is as dark as its cover.
This book is more edgy than the thrillers I’m accustomed to, though the characters were so authentic and well described that I was immersed in the narrative. A narrative I might add that often left me feeling uncomfortable…
The writing was a pleasure to read. “His good looks had receded beneath his personality.” “That was the trouble with a life on the edge. It could be hard to know where the edge was, until you tumbled into freefall.”
Rilke was a sympathetic character whose life choices don’t always serve him well. He lives alone and is very lonely. He uses the online gay dating service Grindr to find sexual partners that can remain anonymous. He has few friends outside of his work as the head auctioneer at one of Glasgow’s successful auction houses, Bowery Auctions.
“The Second Cut” tackles some gritty themes of drug use, anonymous sex, gay orgies, people trafficking, crimes against the elderly, corruption, homelessness, and organized crime. It depicted the seamy, sordid underbelly of Glasgow. The Glasgow tourist bureau would shudder if this side of the city were brought to light.
I’m glad I read this novel, but would be hesitant to read more of Rilke’s story, only because it is so sordid and dark. I was rooting for him to find a more steady partner, someone to care for him that he cared for in return. Perhaps I should remove my rose coloured glasses and surrender to the darkness…
This book put the noir in Tartan Noir.
3.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley and Amazon. Rounded down for Goodreads where the stars have different values.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Canongate Books via NetGalley.
ISBN: 9781838850869 – ASIN: B098BG6K7R – 384 pages
Louise Welsh is an award-winning author of eight novels. The Cutting Room, her debut novel, won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award and the Saltire First Book of The Year Award. In 2018, she was named the Most Inspiring Saltire First Book Award winner by public vote. She is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.