Book Review: Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan

cut-to-the-bone-alex-caan-880x1354Ruby Day is an internet sensation. With millions following her online vlog, her disappearance is an immediate and high profile cause for concern. Cue the newly formed Police and Crime Commissioner’s crack team of investigators. A well-resourced and vastly experienced group, DI Riley’s team also hides some disturbing secrets and shady pasts. When a video of Ruby is released online, the pressure mounts – is this the work of one crazed individual or is there more to Ruby’s kidnap than anyone could ever have imagined?

 

Alex Caan’s debut novel is an interesting and fast paced read. It’s pitched well, without too much emphasis on the technicalities of internet vlogging, making it accessible to anyone with a passion for a punchy thriller.

The depth of Caan’s characters is admirable – almost every individual seemed to have something to hide or an axe to grind; hints at their past, or their dodgy dealings kept me intrigued, but at times I felt these traits were clumsily dropped into the narrative, when otherwise it may have fallen flat. I did start to wonder whether anyone was what they seemed, which had me second guessing every character’s actions, distracting me from the story at hand.

The story itself is strong – disappearance of a young woman, a number of key suspects each with their own motive, a Detective with personal issues – but there’s more to this than your average whodunit. The politics of the new Police and Crime Commissioner’s appointment, the questionable ethics of social media management and the surprise addition of murky international trading lend this novel a fresh edge with a lot of potential.

However, for me, that potential was never truly realised. Unless Caan is setting us up for the second in the Detective Riley series, I felt there were a lot of questions left unanswered, and a significant thread of the narrative was abandoned three quarters of the way through. I can’t help but feel as though Caan had bitten off more than he could chew with this, and decided to leave it to another day, when he could give it the full attention it deserved.

I’d certainly be interested to see where the series goes from here, but perhaps by reading others’ reviews rather than sitting down with the novel myself. My frustration came in no small part from the numerous errors in this book. Almost every chapter had me grinding my teeth at the sloppy proofing. My advice to Caan? Keep doing what you’re good at, don’t stretch the scope of the story more than is necessary, and sack your proof reader.

Overall, a good debut with potential for a great series to be developed, but a little restraint wouldn’t go amiss when developing characters’ backstories and the reach of the novel as a whole.

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