The sequel to The Cutting Room, auctioneer Rilke has been trying to stay out of trouble, keeping his life more or less respectable. Business has been slow at Bowery Auctions, so when an old friend, Jojo, gives Rilke a tip-off for a house clearance, life seems to be looking up. The next day Jojo washes up dead.
Jojo liked Grindr hook-ups and recreational drugs—is that the reason the police won't investigate? And if Rilke doesn't find out what happened to Jojo, who will?
The tendency of reality, in its roughest form, to interrupt the most painstakingly choreographed of our lives’ arrangements is another constant at the heart of this novel ... 'We half walked, half waltzed along'. This wouldn’t be a bad description of the way the novel’s plot unfolds, swirling off at seeming tangents, always finely, if precariously, poised. Rilke’s narrative voice, with its constant flow of dry and quirky observation, keeps the reader enthralled. And so does the plot ... The Second Cut is exhilarating in its wit, its sophistication and its freewheeling energy, but most of all in being so bracingly down-to-earth.
I confess I was a little concerned when I heard about this sequel – revisiting past glories can be problematic – but it is a good and gripping novel, and does new things with the material ... The question that immediately faces the reader is whether these disparate plots are somehow going to converge, or whether they are parallel stories. As such, it is an effective technique to hold the reader. Something – many things – are suspicious, but do they all point in the same direction? ... Skill is meaningless without intent, however, and Welsh gives Rilke a line that seems to define the whole novel: 'Illegality I can cope with, cruelty I can’t'. That could be used as an aphorism to delineate 'noir'. Is this the last of Rilke? I am too long in the tooth to make predictions, but I would not be averse another installment at all.
Louise Welsh’s The Second Cut...doesn’t read as a rehash so much as a welcome return to familiar, and clearly fertile, ground ... So squalid in places you half-expect the pages themselves to squelch, there nevertheless remains a winningly sardonic tone throughout ... If The Second Cut races a little too tidily to its conclusion, it nevertheless remains eminently entertaining – no mean feat given that this is a story peopled by misanthropes and misery, and by folk who have no reason for hope but remain hopeful nevertheless. There is always more profit to pursue, more parks after dark, more whisky to wallow in.