In the Cut
Susanna Moore
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Buy *In the Cut* online

In the Cut

Susanna Moore
192 pages
December 1999
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This mystery/thriller is shocking, edgy, vaguely threatening and a compulsive page-turner. Franny, a thirty-five-year-old professor of creative writing, works with inner-city students and lives in a bohemian neighborhood in Manhattan.

A connoisseur of language, Franny is intrigued by the common usage of cultural slang and spends a considerable amount of time ruminating on words in all their permutations -- a contemporary “absent-minded professor” of sorts. From the beginning, the teacher exhibits a particular vulnerability on her daily rounds in the neighborhood where she lives, on the streets, with her friends and at the clubs she frequents.

In an age of escalating violence, Franny puts herself at risk, perhaps enjoying intellectual rebellion, so fascinated by her writer’s world that she dismisses the real presence of danger. When she first meets Detective Malloy, he is engaged in an intimate act with a strange woman in a club, a woman who later turns up murdered. The physical attraction between Franny and Detective Malloy is undeniable, forged with strong sexual overtones from the start. As a character, Malloy is irresistible: the cop with a roving eye, every woman’s fantasy of the tough guy with a badge.

Although not looking for Mr. Goodbar, Franny is attractive and accessible, her casual insouciance a turn-on to passersby. While she senses danger lurking at the edges of her vision, poor eyesight allows Franny a kind of purposeful distance from reality. Of course, such carelessness is foolish, even stupid; Frannie is a Holly GoLightly in Hell’s Kitchen, Alice fallen through the looking glass into Bosch’s version of purgatory. But after a close call with a masked attacker, Frannie becomes more circumspect. Yet the inevitable is set in motion, while the suspense increases along with Malloy’s quasi-deviant seduction.

The scenes and dialogue in the detective squad are pitch-perfect, believable and realistic, along with the emerging fear and conflict Frannie is finally acknowledging. When the threat is palpable, the action builds to a shocking climax. In the Cut is erotic and intense, complete with uninhibited sexuality (think 9½ Weeks) and precipitous plot, a race toward one of the most horrific endings I have read for a while. Not to be missed.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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