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.
Would The Second Cut incite the strength of feeling as The Cutting Room – a book once read, never forgotten? ... Rilke remains a striking character ... Although as contemporary as any recent novel in terms of its references and commentary on the modern world, the feel of The Second Cut remains gothic and unsettling. Few writers have married literary fiction with crime as Welsh has done in her fiction, and The Second Cut is a reminder of this. This is noir as it should be – literary, licentious, and leaving you wanting more.