The Second Cut by Louise Welsh

Rilke is an auctioneer in Glasgow, and attending a friends wedding when he’s given a friendly tip about an upcoming estate sale. When the man who gave him the tip turns up dead the next day, the police dismiss is as another overdose by a man living a “risky lifestyle” (aka, gay), but Rilke can’t quite let it go that easily. The plot thickens as he walks the thin line between the respectable world he deals in and Glasgow’s dark underbelly.

This book is the sequel to The Cutting Room, which was written 20 years ago and was the authors first book. It shares a few plot points with it’s predecessor. Both of them involve Rilke getting involved with an estate sale, uncovering a crime, and not being able to let go of finding out the truth and seeing how far down the rabbit hole goes. Some of the same characters appear in both. Both books are about a crime and also about the gay scene in Glasgow, but are much more like literary fiction than usual genre fare. All of that said, they’re both standalone novels, really.

The first book was inspired by an anti-LGBTQ legislation that was being enacted at the time and the feelings aroused around that. This book was inspired by the author wanting to look at what’s changed and what hasn’t in that world, 20 years later.

The book goes boldly into the lifestyle and sexuality of Rilke. He casually picks up men on Grindr, with differing results. This was sometimes poignant and sometimes a little funny. We also see sex parties and party drugs, and the more daring and more dangerous side of that scene as well. It reminded me a lot of how some of my friends talk about things they’ve gotten up to and felt quite honest, not romanticized. It can be a bit sexually explicit, but that shouldn’t surprise you: the first book was about snuff films.

With Rilke’s introspection, the rain soaked nights, cheap flats and beautiful old homes, organised crime and murder, the book has a dark, gritty feel. I would call it Glasgow Noir, which I hope is a real genre, because I quite liked it. I liked the characters. Some of them were really shallow, while some of them, like Rose, Rilke’s boss and friend, had good banter. The book is sometimes kind of funny, in a sardonic way, and sometimes dark, but in a way that felt real. I liked this one.

Read It If: This may be too dark or not mystery-genre enough for some, but it’s highly enjoyable. I liked the honest look at LGBTQ life as well.

Thank you to PGC Books for the copy of this book for review.

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