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ANDREW TAYLOR on Writing Crime Fiction



Thomas Laird

Constable £16.99

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Reviewed by Les Hurst

Criminal profilers and other analysts use powerful methods of deduction to identify potential criminals and their ways of working. The most successful of these scientists work in universities and in the laboratories of the FBI. I used an older means of analysis in studying Thomas Laird's Cutter - graphology. The first thing I was able to identify was that alternate chapters are printed in italics - this told me that the criminal was telling his own story. The interwoven chapters continued in plain text - this told me that the copper was unable to capture the fiend. It all ended within 250 pages - for the story of a psychopathic serial killer that is unusual, since few of these freaks is normally caught in less than twice that number of pages. That told me something about the author.

In his first novel, Thomas Laird speaks in the voice of Jimmy Parisi, a detective in the Chicago Police Department. Parisi is hunting "The Farmer" - a sicko, who murders women and steals their body parts. The detectives have reduced their list of suspects to three - all of whom have prior sex convictions and served in the medical services of the US army. However, Parisi has only "Doc", his partner, so while he can bring in the suspects for questioning, he has limited resources to keep observation on the three. A failed kidnap in a mall parking lot leaves a witness who saw almost nothing. Glad as I was that someone should escape "The Farmer" my suspension of disbelief started to fail. It could, though, be a problem with me. That local police departments don't have resources precisely because they are local seems to be a problem all across the USA, but then I waited for Parisi to go back to mall and study the CCTV footage, and he did not. It may be true that Britain has the highest proportion of CCTV in the world - Parisi gets no image of the man who followed the victim around the shops. There may be no opportunity, as standard, across the USA.

More bizarrely, though, and never explained, Parisi learns through his contacts in the mob that "The Farmer" is not only satisfying his own perverse tastes he is also stealing the body parts to sell them to transplant surgeons in Europe and Asia. Parisi has just spent a couple of years losing his wife and then his girlfriend to medical conditions - from all that time he has never picked up any knowledge that makes him stop and wonder "what is this thing called tissue matching?". "The Farmer" pays no attention to it - I wouldn't want to acquire one of his livers or kidneys. Who would? A song from the New Wave included the line "Spare us the cutter". This one, I am afraid, seems more like a pastiche of the genre.

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