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by David Hewson
Macmillan, April 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 140500049X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I don't quite know what to make of David Hewson's THE SACRED CUT. I'd heard a lot of good things about his writing, and had been squirrelling this one away to look forward to. Its strengths are the portrayal of Rome in throes of icy weather. But its weakness is a rather odd detached tone that cuts you off from the main characters.

There's no single leading protagonist in the book. I'd assumed that young detective Nic Costa would be the main focus, but at times he's pushed to the back of the queue behind his colleagues Gianni Peroni and Leo Falcone, FBI agent Emily Deacon, and the murderer, along with a few passers-by. The reader is allowed access into their heads, but never seems to get close to any of them.

I found this particularly frustrating, as I loved what there was of Peroni, a former senior officer bounced back into the ranks for various misdeeds. He's a large, bluff man, but one who has people eating out of his hand. I wanted to get to know him better. Both Costa and the senior officer Falcone -- a man who does his best to dodge the inevitable corruption -- are also creations I wanted to know more about.

The plot itself has vague echoes of (cough, cough) THE DA VINCI CODE. The mutilated body of a woman is found underneath snow in the Pantheon. As the police start to investigate with the assistance of eccentric pathologist Teresa Lupo, the FBI muscle in. There's the thoroughly charmless Agent Leapman, but he's accompanied by Agent Deacon who's way down the pecking order, but has been summoned because of family links to the case.

We know reasonably early on who's done it, so it becomes a matter of why and whether the police and the FBI will put a stop to the mayhem either individually or together. Early scenes with the murderer are suitably spooky, but towards the end I'd more or less lost interest in him because of the rather leaden action.

So, the jury's still out on Hewson from where I'm sitting. I liked the main characters, I loved the evocation of a wintry Rome, but the narrative felt very distant and almost too casual, as if I was reading the book from down the wrong end of a telescope.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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