CUT SHORT – Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell’s CUT SHORT is a book I had to read in one sitting. The first chapter is titled “Goodbye” so an end is the beginning of this excellent new series. DI Geraldine Steel, newly transferred into the Murder Investigation Unit, is  moving into her new apartment when she is called to Lyceum Park where a body has just been found in the bushes. The victim is Angela Waters, a woman in her early 20’s with long blond hair. Soon the bodies of other women are found, all sharing the same physical characteristics.   Panic in Woolsmarsh ensues.

The identity of the killer is learned very early on. His intelligence is at the low end of the spectrum and he is a paranoid schizophrenic.  An appeal goes out from the police asking  people who were in the park at the time of the murder to come forward with any information they have.  Heather Spencer, a teacher at a secondary school, reports that  she saw a man with a scar on his upper lip, a man who seemed to be talking to himself or to a partner in the conversation, unseen by anyone else.

DI Steel is assigned to listen to the messages from the public responding to the appeal.  Nothing offered appears to have any relevance to the murder.  To add to Geraldine’s problems,  she is being stalked by someone whose appearance is vaguely familiar.  She is on the fast promotion track, a route that encourages jealousy and resentment.  She is too new to the town and to the Murder Investigation Unit to know if the stalker is someone from her personal life or someone who wants to unsettle her in her professional life.

The author slowly introduces the members of the Murder Investigation Unit, creating three dimensional characters and leading the reader to hope  that these are characters we will get to know well.

The scene of the crime is Lyceum Park.   In modern terms, “lyceum” refers to secondary schools, particularly those in Europe. In the classical period, the lyceum in Athens was a public meeting place in a grove protected by the god  Apollo Lyceus. Secondary schools play a big part in the story and the discovery of the bodies takes place in a grove, the city park that has strong influence on the psyche of the killer.  Is the killer protecting the park or does he believe the park protects him?

Everything in the book, from characters to the titles of the chapters, move the reader along to a satisfying conclusion.  Leigh Russell is an author worth meeting.

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