Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Cutting Room #1

The Cutting Room

Rate this book
When Rilke, a dissolute and promiscuous auctioneer, comes upon a hidden collection of violent and highly disturbing photographs, he feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them.

What follows is a compulsive journey of discovery, decadence, and deviousness that leads Rilke into a dark underworld of transvestite clubs, seedy bars, and porn shops. In this hidden city haunted by a host of vividly drawn characters, Rilke comes face to face with the dark desires and illicit urges that lurk behind even the most respectable facades.

294 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Louise Welsh

50 books285 followers
After studying history at Glasgow University, Louise Welsh established a second-hand bookshop, where she worked for many years. Her first novel, The Cutting Room, won several awards, including the 2002 Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and was jointly awarded the 2002 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Louise was granted a Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Award in 2003, a Scotland on Sunday/Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award in 2004, and a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2005.

She is a regular radio broadcaster, has published many short stories, and has contributed articles and reviews to most of the British broadsheets. She has also written for the stage. The Guardian chose her as a 'woman to watch' in 2003.

Her second book, Tamburlaine Must Die, a novelette written around the final three days of the poet Christopher Marlowe's life, was published in 2004. Her third novel, The Bullet Trick (2006), is a present-day murder mystery set in Berlin.

The Cutting Room 2002
Tamburlaine Must Die 2004
The Bullet Trick 2006
Naming The Bones 2010

Prizes and awards
2002 Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger The Cutting Room

2002 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award (joint winner) The Cutting Room

2003 BBC Underground Award (writer category) The Cutting Room

2003 Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Award

2004 Corine Internationaler Buchpreis: Rolf Heyne Debutpreis (Germany) The Cutting Room

2004 Scotland on Sunday/Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award

2004 Stonewall Book Award (US) (honor in literature)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
652 (17%)
4 stars
1,471 (39%)
3 stars
1,158 (30%)
2 stars
366 (9%)
1 star
105 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 331 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews768 followers
November 30, 2015
Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

Rilke is a gay auctioneer in his 40’s, who enjoys drinking, smoking, and casual sex. While clearing out the house of his latest client, an elderly woman, he comes across a collection of erotic books and photos that belonged to her deceased brother. She doesn’t want to see any of it and asks that he destroy everything in his private study. Instead of honoring her request, he wishes to learn more about the disturbing images of a woman that appears to have been murdered. During his search for the truth, he encounters drug dealers, porn shop owners, an amateur filmmaker, and a woman who poses nude for the camera.

This was a very stylish, moody, and atmospheric thriller. I enjoyed the glimpse at a dark and seedy side of Glasgow, the workings of an auction house, and the deeply flawed character of Rilke. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the weak mystery, the flat secondary characters, and the ending that fizzled out and left me rather disappointed.

Still, I would recommend this story to readers who enjoy literary crime novels, morally challenged characters, and don’t mind graphic and disturbing situations.

Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
January 7, 2021
”I’m twenty-five years at the auction house, forty-three years of age. They call me Rilke to my face, behind my back the Cadaver, Corpse, Walking Dead. Aye, well, I may be gaunt of face and long of limb but I don’t smell and I never expect anything.”

Rilke has been called out to a deal of a lifetime. A house brimming with antiques that will put Bowery Auctions back in the black. The sister of the deceased owner wants a quick sale, not for the usual reasons of greed, but because she wants to free herself from a distasteful association. She instructs Rilke to personally dispose of all the contents of the attic, not in the usual way, through the auction block, but by burning.

There are books up there, you see, very unusual books in matching green and white bindings (some of you will know the publisher from the banner colors). There is an old saying that a lot can be learned about a person by their bookshelves. I’m not sure what my bookshelves would tell someone, except that I have a wide range of interests, that some might say is unfocused. In the case of McKindless’s books, they give Rilke an idea of some of his predilections, some of his fantasies, but it is the stack of photographs that Rilke finds that might give a clearer picture of what lurked behind the man’s eyes.

When Miss McKindless tells Rilke to burn the books in the attic, he crosses his fingers and assures her that he will do the deed. ”I can smile and smile and be a villain still.” I’ve never been in a circumstance where I’ve been instructed to burn a valuable book collection, but I can tell you that I wouldn’t be able to do it, nor would I be able to stand by and watch it happen either. I’ve been in a situation where they haven’t even thrown dirt on the man’s grave and the widow is demanding that I haul away her husband’s book collection. Not because the sight of the books made her grieve more for her husband, but because she had a deep-seated resentment towards books that he quite possibly adored more than her. So Rilke will not burn the books. He’s not sure what he will do with them, but he will not be party to something that is certainly an aspect of cultural genocide, even though these particular books are considered to be abominations by a certain percentage of the population. Whether they are trash or treasure is a matter of perspective.

”Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me, and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of life.”--Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

He has bigger problems. The woman in the progression of photographs is shown with her throat slit by the end. Are these true snuff photographs or are they staged? Is McKindless a garden variety pervert or is he a murderer? Rilke might tiptoe back and forth across the line between right and wrong, but sadistic murder is firmly on the side of wrong. He launches an investigation that will take him deep into the Glasgow underbelly of sexual deviancy. What consenting partners choose to do with one another is one thing, but what these pictures show is too sinister to contemplate. The water is rising swiftly, and Rilke’s thrashing about only seems to drive him deeper under the water. His own sexual desires might land him in more trouble than he can handle.

This was funny: ”Shelves of videos. I slid one out...featuring real girls from Glasgow. Why not Real Girls from Rio? Taut, tanned buttocks losing out to the Pillsbury Dough cellulite of the girl next door. It cheered me to think that given a choice the average Scottish pervert wanted to wank to the robust Scottish girl in the street. Then I wondered if all straight men liked these big-busted, well-fed young women, or if it was just the perverts. The thought depressed me again.” Rilke is much more interested in the taut, tanned buttocks of Brazilian men than women, but he is not impervious to an attractive woman. I have to admit there is something strangely sweet about the pervs of Scotland preferring the reality of the girl next door compared to the surgically altered glamour girls of Rio. To me, fantasy is best grounded with at least a modicum of reality.

I really enjoyed the moral dilemmas of the book. As Rilke unwinds the McKindless secrets and deals with his cash strapped boss, he is constantly having to reevaluate his sense of right and wrong and the really wrong. People disappoint him, and sometimes he feels like a fool for even trying to do the right thing. He has to interpret the ambiguous prophecy of a ”strung-out sibyl, amphetamine seer.” He has to survive the religious ferver of a demented bookseller who believes he is the left hand of God, bringing justice to bear on those in need of punishment. He has to weigh his own greed and decide if he can live with the consequences of his own decisions. Most importantly, he has to find out the truth about the woman. His future can not begin until he solves the mysteries of the present.

I also really enjoyed the auction house aspects of this story, which were not that dissimilar from my own experiences in the book biz. I was hoping that Louise Welsh had written more stories about this unusual detective, but alas, that does not seem to be the case.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/
April 28, 2018

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

A man not satisfied with looking up women's skirts, he wanted to get closer, ever closer, until he took the object of his desire apart, breaking it in an effort to discover how it worked (228).

Wow, it's the mystery-thriller I didn't know I desperately wanted to read. I actually got this author confused with Minette Walters when I saw it at a thrift store, because the covers and names are a little similar and both of them write dark mystery novels. Minette Walters this author is not, but she's still a damn good story-writer.

THE CUTTING ROOM is about an auctioneer named Rilke, a man of gray morals who solicits sex by night and often frequents gay bars, when he's not dabbling in objects of dubious provenance. Rilke is a great character because he fits right into the noir novels of the 50s, and yet his character is much more modern (and gay!), while also slotting neatly into the tone and the mood of his gumshoe predecessors.

His latest client is a woman whose brother has died. She wants Rilke to clean out their house in under a week but the pay is so good that the nigh-impossible challenge becomes an impossible-to-resist lure. The reason for her haste soon becomes clear when Rilke works his way up to her brother's office and finds all kinds of books, photographs, and art devoted to morbidly sadistic fetishes that cross into psychotic: an obsession not just for causing pain, but also to mortally wound... even murder. Pretty soon, Rilke is asking himself, "Yes, I know this man is f*cked up - but would he kill?"

That's the question.

I had a lot of people ask me about this book when they saw me reading it because they were intrigued by the cover and title and I told them that it was a lot like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The mystery kept me turning the pages, but the journey getting there was fun because of the way it was written and the fleshed-out characters with their intricate complexities. I was desperate to find out the truth about the man who owned the pictures, even as I wondered whether Rilke's desire to make a buck would end up causing obstruction. It was a brilliant moral tug-of-war.

I also liked that as a gay character, Rilke got a decent amount of sex. Good sex, too.

4 stars
Profile Image for N.
809 reviews195 followers
March 2, 2011
I loved Louise Welsh’s historical novella, Tamburlaine Must Die, but I found this thriller set in the seedy world of Glaswegian antiques dealerships distinctly un-thrilling.

Right from the start, I wanted to get out my red pen and start correcting The Cutting Room. It’s not the typos that bother me – although they’re there – it’s the way that the novel’s mystery (about ‘snuff’ pornography) fails to mesh with its milieu and cast of characters. Welsh seems far more interested in writing about her hard-drinking, grizzled protagonist, Rilke, and his motley assortment of friends and colleagues, than she does in developing the mystery.

When I try to describe the novel, the word I keep coming up with is: clumsy.

There’s a strong whiff of pretension attached to Cutting, with epigraphs adorning almost every chapter (you don’t get a gold star for invoking every poem you’ve ever read, Welsh), and truly awful naming choices. ‘Rilke’ is simply an absurd name for a scummy detective character, but worse is the sub-Dickensian villain, named ‘McKindless’. We get it: he’s unkind.

Welsh tries to draw parallels between Rilke and sadistic pornographer McKindless, positing (I think) that we are all capable of sado-sexual impulses. But, like almost everything about this novel, it’s clumsy. There’s no smooth story arc to Cutting; it’s filled instead with scenes that demonstrate something – here we meet the friendly policeman character; here we learn that Rilke likes rough sex; here we learn that Rilke believes in honour among thieves. It’s paint-by-numbers storytelling and the novel drags as a result.

There’s potential in Cutting – I like the idea of a gay protagonist in a staunchly-heterosexual genre; I feel there’s a lot to be said about the link between sex and death – but it all remains sadly unrealised.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
859 reviews2,177 followers
January 18, 2015
Exemplary...and Unconventional

This is Louise Welsh's first novel, and the second of hers that I've read (having read the first two in reverse order).

It's an exemplary crime novel, although the fact that it complies with many or most of the conventions of the crime genre is almost incidental to its design and appeal.

It's very capable literary fiction that happens to be set in the context of a criminal enterprise that is brought or almost brought undone by the narrator.

Authorial Gender

There are at least two stylistic features that fascinated me about the execution of the novel.

First, Welsh uses a first person male narrator, Rilke. I felt that the style shared a lot with that of Benjamin Black (the pseudonym of John Banville, whose first crime novel was published four years later). Welsh is very observant of environment, appearance and sensitivity. You see with Rilke's eyes, and once you get used to them, you start to think like he thinks. It helps that he's an auctioneer, not a policeman or a detective or a private eye. He's not inept, but he's not experienced either. He's not used to finding himself in these situations, nor are we, unless we've become vicarious detectives via reading.

The attention to detail helps us forget that the author is female, at least until it comes to the narrator's sex life. Many readers question whether a male can successfully write a female character, or at least a female narrator. I'm pretty sure that, if you didn't know that Welsh was female, you'd be convinced the author was a man. This is a tribute to the quality of her writing, regardless of her gender.

Genre Gender

The second feature that fascinated me was the fact that Rilke is single, white, 43 years old and gay.

This last characteristic allows Welsh to further circumvent the conventions of the crime genre. However, she does it without detracting from the intrinsic appeal of the genre itself. As a result, her success asks the question, why can't there be more gay narrators and protagonists in the crime genre?

Of course, if Welsh was a heterosexual female, you could argue that some of her description of what Rilke does to other men might coincide with her own experience. Thus, you could say that she is able to use her normal descriptive powers, but adjust only the gender of the narrator. However, without venturing into her sexual past, she is openly and proudly gay, so again you have to admire her skill in portraying all aspects of genre and sexuality. I wonder how many heterosexual male authors could match her ability.

The Narrative Puzzle

If I may add a third feature to my list, I'll praise her ability to tell a story. Much of the fiction I read deliberately tampers with or rebels against the conventions of narrative. To the extent that Post-Modernist works contain a story at all, the reader must do their own work to reconstruct the story out of the fragments. I like doing this, in the same way I used to like doing jigsaw puzzles as a child. However, Welsh reminds you of what a pleasure it is to witness a story (like a joke) being told in exactly the right order, with facts revealed not too early or too late, and tension remaining at the end of each chapter. It's also nice to get to the end of a mystery and know that there are no missing or extraneous pieces.

These three features made the novel not just an exemplary crime novel, but an exemplary novel per se. It's also an exemplary beach novel. It's 38 degrees centigrade and 90% humidity here at the moment. Time to get wet.
Profile Image for Ken.
2,164 reviews1,322 followers
April 9, 2023
The central character Rilke - an auctioneer at a struggling auction house certainly likes to do things by the excess.

In a way his lifestyle exemplifies the novel as a whole, as he gets the offer to clear a house by a lady who's brother has just died.
The reason why Rilke is offered plenty of money is due to the disturbing pornographic content and some of the pictures seem to show the death of a mysterious young women.

The book really delves into the dark side of Glasgow as Rilke explores the criminal underworld.

Whilst the mystery is the initial pull, it takes a side step to the depravity and the main characters sexual exploits.
The ending felt really rushed.
Profile Image for Lea.
852 reviews177 followers
July 3, 2022
This thriller is about Rilke, a gay auctioneer who finds violent sexual photographs while clearing out someone's house and tries to find out how the owner is connected to them. The case itself was rather dull and I never fully understood why Rilke was so intent on solving it. The plot meanders until, suddenly, it's over with quite abruptly. A lot of reviews are praising the characters and the description of the underworld of Glasgow but I found it read rather artificial.

This isn't a horrible book, in fact there were pages and dialogues I enjoyed, but overall I found this really clumsy and, worst of all, rather boring for the most part.
Profile Image for Hendrik.
409 reviews77 followers
October 16, 2018
Das Drumherum der zwielichtigen Geschäfte und suspekten Gestalten im Glasgower Antiquitätenhandel war am Ende spannender, als die eher schlicht gestrickte Thrillerhandlung. Insgesamt fand ich die Geschichte mit einigen Abstrichen trotzdem ganz unterhaltsam. An mancher Stelle hätte man sich vielleicht weniger Detailverliebtheit gewünscht. So wirkt eine Sexszene des Protagonisten doch arg grotesk in ihrer ausufernd expliziten Schilderung einer analen Penetration und diesbezüglich zu beachtender Vorsichtsmaßnahmen. So etwas hätte sicher eine Erwähnung in einem proktologischen Fachvortrag verdient, aber ist in einem Thriller (auch in einem mit pornographischem Touch) ganz klar fehl am Platz.
Profile Image for Kimmy C.
327 reviews9 followers
July 24, 2022
Finally rectified my ahrsabout way of reading (find number 2 in a series, then read that first).
We meet Rilke, coasting through life on a sea of alcohol and sometimes stronger stuff, homosexual (still not completely accepted by society), and smoker. These three things are his coping mechanisms in a life that shows the gritty, seedy underbelly of Glasgow. He works with Rose, femme fatale, and we are introduced to a few other characters who made an appearance in the second book. That I read first.
While doing a ‘confidentiality is important’ clearout of a house, Rilke discovers pornographic photos, and our morally challenged man takes it upon himself to discover if the woman, who appears dead, is the victim of any crime. We journey with him to porn shops, meet those who work on the dark side of life, and have graphic descriptions of male-male sex, snuff style work, and those who have no choice but to be part of the grittier side of life.
It was a great introduction to the characters I already knew, and would look out for Rilke 3. His self-deprecating manner and good heart - although his methods may be unconventional, make for good reading.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,560 reviews855 followers
October 13, 2020
Writing this 2007 review in 2020, I am afraid I can't recall anything about this book - it's of no surprise that I have total recall of the books I highly rated. Yet again, reading the summary, this should be the type of book I'd really enjoy so I get the rationale behind my choice to read it. 4 out of 12 was the grade I gave it back in 2007.
Profile Image for Kat Dietrich.
1,168 reviews144 followers
April 20, 2022

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh is the first in the Auctioneer Rilke series.

Series Information:
Rilke has been at Bowery Auctions in Glasgow for 25 years. His boss is Rose Bowery.  Rilke is a 43 year old gay man who drinks, smokes and seems to be a fan of casual sex.  His nicknames of Cadaver and  Corpse as well as others, are all in reference to his tall, gaunt features.

My Synopsis:   (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions)
When Rilke is sent to Hyndland to to evaluate the contents of  the massive McKindless home, he decides to learn more about the deceased owner...especially when he finds photographs containing some rather disturbing images.  That couldn't possibly be a dead woman in that erotic photo, could it?

Rilke follows one lead to the next, and finds himself involved in the seedy underworld of pornography.  But he can't let it go.  Those photos have him determined to find out what happened to the woman in that picture.  Thankfully, he has a lot of contacts/acquaintances.

My Opinions:
The plot was quite interesting, and I learned a lot about auction houses and how they operate.

As good as the premise of the book was, I think the ending was a little flat.  As well, sometimes the author got a little carried away with her prose....some paragraphs went on forever, and could have been cut out all together.  I really didn't need to know details about all the different purchasers at the sale.

I'm not sure I liked Rilke.  I have no problem with his lifestyle choices, but it seems he does everything to excess.  The other characters were a real mixture.

Okay, for all my negativity, I still think this was a good book, mostly because of the premise, and the fact that Rilke's morals and ethics are interesting (if somewhat lacking).  Yet he was trying to do the right thing.   He's just not your typical protagonist.

Anyway, a second book is now coming out  (almost 20 years later), and I'm interested in seeing how Rilke's been spending his time.

Here's hoping your next books if 5 stars!

For a more complete review of this book and others (including the reason I chose to read/review this book, author information and contact details, as well as a favorite quotation from the book), please visit my blog: http://katlovesbooksblog.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,256 followers
July 11, 2011
Obsessions are dangerous, yet they are also so human. They drive the most amazing and visionary projects—and fuel the darkest, most horrible passions. Obsessions play a fundamental role in The Cutting Room, both in the actions of the dead antagonist and in Rilke, the protagonist and auctioneer who stumbles across snuff photographs while processing an estate and begins to wonder if they are real.

I'll call this a mystery, because it is, but it's not the typical formula mystery of a professional or even an amateur detective following the trail of clues. Rilke is more than amateur, and he doesn't so much solve the mystery of Mr. McKindless as he does stumble around until the mystery solves itself. If I might, I will employ a cinematic metaphor and liken Louise Welsh to the director of a movie: she chooses to focus the story and each scene in such a way that while the mystery is still the primary plot of the book, it does not seem to form the substance of each scene. The mystery is the priority for Rilke, but it is not the priority for the reader. Instead, Welsh takes us on a tour of shady Glaswegian businesses and drug dealers, explores Rilke's casual approach to sexual partners, and encourages us to contemplate the deeper implications of the McKindless photos.

The Cutting Room both benefits and suffers from this stylistic decision. I don't read mystery novels as much as I used to, but when I was young they were my bread and butter: Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were some of the first series I can remember devouring by myself; later I graduated to the real good stuff: Agatha Christie. While I've drifted away from the genre, my appreciation for it has never lessened. I'm sure there are some mystery novels that deserve to be called "pulp" or even secretly yearn within their pages to be thrillers, but in general I think mystery is a fascinating genre that fuses the excitement of conflict with the intricacies of human psychology. So the best mystery novels are also usually quite deep, and here The Cutting Room is no exception. Welsh meditates on the various possibilities: the photos could be faked, staged; they could be real, a living, breathing woman could have been killed for someone's entertainment and sexual gratification. Later, she connects these possibilities to the more contemporary political issue of human smuggling and the prostitution and rape of Eastern European women. Some of her characters make some pretty explicit speeches about the shortcomings of the international justice system in countering and preventing such smuggling rings from operating. However, the dialogue always rings true to the character and scene and mood at the time; Welsh never cross the line to become preachy.

I do have some qualms about Rilke's voice. Wonderful things are possible with first-person narration, and nothing pleases me more than when an author manages to create a narrator who just speaks to you. When you're reading such a narrator, the words themselves seem to convey more meaning than is possible, and the narrator's voice will begin to do the work of establishing depth and tone. This is why I love another mystery series, the Dresden Files. Unfortunately, I find Rilke a difficult narrator to enjoy. His speech is often fragmented, his descriptions packed inside nested dependent clauses. The story itself takes place over the course of a week, but Rilke's sense of time is highly fluid and not exactly precise.

The combination of Rilke's narration and Welsh's stylistic decisions regarding the emphasis on the mystery mean that The Cutting Room has a somewhat distant or dreamlike quality to it. It is as if the action is happening slightly out of sync with everything; if you were to look over at the clock, the hands would be moving more slowly than you might expect. Here's a passage, pulled totally at random when I opened the book to that page:

For people who weren't drinking much, the girls certainly had a buzz on. There was an air of anticipation, a first night atmosphere. A haggard redhead clicked open her handbag mirror and sighed at her reflection. She stretched her mouth out to a long ghastly grin and freshened her lipstick. She passed the mirror to the girl next to her, who grimaced, then repainted her own lips a dark shade of magenta.

Someone settled another cocktail in front of me. It tasted fine, pleasantly palatable. I wondered why I didn't drink them more often. From now on my tipple would be pink and fizzy and made with double measures of gin. I raised my glass and saluted the company. A few of the girls raised theirs in response.

Hopefully this conveys the almost hyperaware way Welsh sets a scene through Rilke's observations. And I don't mean this as criticism, because it's not a bad stylistic choice at all. However, I do think it prevented me from viewing any of the other characters as fully three-dimensional personalities; to me, they all seemed too distilled when filtered through Rilke. This is a danger of any story narrated in first-person, but it is not one that The Cutting Room overcomes.

The epilogue is a departure from the rest of the book and feels unnecessary. I loved the ending, in which Welsh, through the narration, makes us think that one character is dead but then pulls back on the scene to reveal her still alive. I loathe this trick when it is played on television, with the heavy implication followed by a cut to a tombstone and then a pull back to reveal a completely different name. In literature, however, I feel like it's less cheap—lacking the visual trickery seems to add weight to the device. Anyway, The Cutting Room climaxes with the auction of McKindless' estate and a revelation that sends Rilke's plans spiralling out of control. It provides a satisfactory resolution to the mystery without the additional epilogue.

Speaking of that mystery, which never really seemed the primary focus, I confess I wasn't all that interested in learning whether the snuff photos were real. Fortunately, because of the way Welsh chooses to tell the story, this is not a problem, for I found plenty of interest: her descriptions of Glasgow's villains, Rilke's ruminations on death and the business of estate auctions, and Welsh's portrayal of Rilke's homosexuality. This is a mystery novel, but it is also a very well-rounded one. And while it lacks some of the urgency or focus of a more dedicated mystery, while its main character isn't a great detective (in fact, he is downright lousy at detection), I still managed to enjoy it thoroughly. I inherited The Cutting Room from a friend who moved away, and it is probably not something I would have picked up on my own, even from a library display. It has proved to be a fortunate discovery.

Creative Commons License
Profile Image for Karen.
1,792 reviews107 followers
September 1, 2016
THE CUTTING ROOM is Louise Welsh's debut novel, published for the first time by Text Publishing in Australia in 2006.

Rilke's not exactly the archetypal hero accidental investigator. He's in his 40's; his personal hygiene is a bit offhand; he's an auctioneer for one of Glasgow's less than salubrious auction houses and he's gay with a taste for anonymous sexual encounters anywhere, anytime.

When summoned by Miss McKindless to her recently deceased brother's home, stuffed full with antiques, the likes of which Rilke's firm have never been able to get hold of. Despite her demand that the entire house be cleared in a week, Rilke readily agrees to the windfall. When she insists that Rilke personally clear her brother's private room in the attic he goes along with that as well, although she's very particular that everything in it must be destroyed. Naturally Rilke can't resist a very good look around and in amongst the very impressive collection of exclusive erotica, he finds a cache of photographs. The photographs include some of the dead man along with many that have a snuff porn theme. Rilke is immediately drawn to finding out where these photos came from and who the girl depicted could be.

Despite the fact that the search for the origins of the photos and the girl herself is a very fruitless task - the photos are obviously old, there is no indication of where they came from or where taken or anything that could possibly provide any sort of lead, Rilke can't leave well enough alone. He says himself "Let's just say I can't leave her there" when pressed to chuck it all in. And herein lies one of the great dichotomy's of the book. Rilke is in many ways a very confrontational character. His pursuit of sexual pleasure is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit mucky. His (and those of his boss Rose's) ethics are a tad on the questionable side, and yet he continues the quest to find out something about these photos in a way that is extremely human and decent. At the same time, he's not depicted as a lone wolf, hard man who cares - typical of many crime fiction books. He is extremely cynical, he's a realist.

Along with Rilke there's a supporting cast of wonderful characters - Rose, his slightly overblown, vaguely past it, sexual predator boss, whose best friend is ultimately Rilke - the one man who just isn't vaguely interested in her sexually no matter what she does. There's Les the drug-dealing transvestite. There's a bunch of reprobate second hand dealers in everything from books to porn, furniture to junk. There's the old schoolfriend, now policeman, who does Rilke more than one favour by dragging him out of some difficult 'legal' situations. All of the supporting characters are drawn as vividly as the Rilke and again, there are some things to like and some things to loathe about many of them.

Ultimately THE CUTTING ROOM is a fascinating book - part morality tale, part crime fiction, part character study, vaguely Gothic, grotty and steeped in a sense of place and people. If you are interested in the non-black and white, if you can let the obvious flaws in somebody's character roll and look beneath to find a true nature, you should enjoy this book.
40 reviews
August 25, 2016
I picked this book up because it was based in Glasgow. That said, all of the Glaswegian dialect seemed stilted--I could have written it and I'm not Scottish. I liked the fact that the protagonist was a gay man, something that you don't see often in this genre. But the entire book was trying very hard and didn't succeed. The mystery's story line made no sense. Why did Rilke go around trying to solve the mystery before actually opening the rest of the boxes in the attic? Mainly because the author was more interested in showing the city's seedy netherworld than the actual plot of the book.
Profile Image for Josie.
429 reviews15 followers
March 27, 2016
Ooh this was so very dark and twisty, I loved it!
This crime novel takes place in Glasgow Scotland and is a brilliant debut novel.
Not so much a "who dunnit" but close enough. The intricate web of mystery that the author weaves leaves you powering through chapters to uncover the truth.
So long as you don't mind the odd rather descriptive account of 2 men having hardcore anal sex, plus the odd typo throughout the book, then you'd be hard pressed not to love this book in all of its Glaswegian grime!
Profile Image for Eleanor.
29 reviews
January 7, 2022
Liked the premise of the book and first few chapters drew me in. However, found the plot quite slow and repetitive. Book ended quite abruptly and was anti-climactic.
Profile Image for Maureen DeLuca.
1,037 reviews32 followers
August 11, 2022
If you like psycho killers, with police procedures - you should like this -
Profile Image for Alison Hardtmann.
1,265 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2022
I was fed up with my life. Fed up of working and never having anything. Tired of searching my pockets for the price of my next pint. I'd sat next to Death that afternoon. Why not take the risk? The only people who might get hurt were us, and weren't we used to that? I wanted something good for a change. And if the money was going begging, well, why shouldn't we have it? From what Anderson had said, it was dirty money anyway, ill-gotten gains that could do us some good. I should have known better. Dirty money contaminates. It never goes begging and there's always someone else who can be hurt.

The Cutting Room is a dark, sharp-edged story, following Rilke, the cadaverous 43 year old gay employee of a failing auction house whose behavior defines risky. He is called to evaluate the contents of a house, a house whose contents are richer than the auction house has ever seen. He is given the job on the condition that the auction be completed in a week's time and that he clear out the contents of an attic office personally. In the attic he finds a collection of first edition erotic books and, in a cardboard box, a handful of pictures taken in Paris in the 1950s, two of which seem to show the murder of a young woman. Rilke sets out to discover what happened and in the process discovers more sleaze and criminal behavior than he had ever expected.

The Cutting Room is noir fiction at its finest. The characters are beautifully drawn, complex and interesting. The pace of the novel is fast, with a well thought out plot. I enjoyed every moment of this book, although I am relieved not to have met any of its shady characters in real life.

I was too old to call it love at first sight, but I had all the symptoms. People have died for love, they have lied and cheated and parted from those who loved them in turn. Love has slammed doors on fortunes, made bad men from heroes and heroes from libertines. Love has corrupted, cured, depraved and perverted. It is the remedy, the melody, the poison and the pain. The appetite, the antidote, the fever and the flavour. Love Kills. Love Cures. Love is a bloody menace. Oh, but it's fun while it lasts. The world faltered on its axis, then resumed its customary gyration, a place of improved possibilities.
Profile Image for scottiesandbooks.
209 reviews20 followers
November 9, 2021
“People have died for love, they have lied and cheated and parted from those who loved them in turn. Love has slammed doors on fortunes, made bad men from heroes and heroes from libertines. Love has corrupted, cured, depraved and perverted. It is the remedy, the melody, the poison and the pain. The appetite, the antidote, the fever and the flavour. Love kills. Love cures. Love is a bloody menace. Oh, but it’s fun whilst it lasts.”

I’m going to start by saying… this is one of the best books I have read in the longest time!!

The Cutting Room is the story of Rilke, an auctioneer from Glasgow who comes upon a hidden collection of photographs when clearing a house. He becomes obsessed by the photographs and the story hidden within, finding himself caught up with the Glasgow underworld and struggling to stay afloat.

Although this is a crime book, it is about so so so much more.. I cannot stress that enough! The character of Rilke is a story unto himself- and what a fantastic story it is! A gay bachelor in about the 90s, Rilke is always putting himself in some situations th at are a danger to himself and make the reader feel very uneasy at points. I honestly could not help but fall madly in love with him and I can’t wait to read more from him in the future.

There’s also Glasgow. You can absolutely tell how much Louise loves Glasgow by the way she writes about it in this book. It felt so honest, raw and unflinching with even the most minor points transporting me to that exact street and heightening my senses. This is supported by the amazing Glaswegian characters we come across whether it be the guys in the pub haggling over treasures or the junkie walking down the street; each character is expertly written and makes me want to know more about each and every one of them.

The characters of Les and Rose deserve their own note for being such amazing characters. I could read a novel on each of them.

Honest, queer, sexy and uneasy; The Cutting Room is sure to have you hooked from page one!
39 reviews
December 16, 2008
I really, really liked this one. A Gothic noir set in Glasgow amidst the underbelly of the rare books/antiquities trade? Sign me up. While the "mystery" here isn't the standard whodunit spectacular, to paraphrase a minor character: it's what you find along the way that's important. And in the case of this book, that bit of greeting-card New Agery is spot on. I can't remember the last time I read a crime novel in which I was so taken by the characters. Usually, the plot drives and everything else is just window dressing (no matter how piquant). In this case, it's the reverse. Welsh uses Rilke's quest as a way to introduce the reader to a well-drawn rogue's gallery, any one of which I'd be happy to read a whole book about. And then there's Rilke himself, the "detective" about whom we end up knowing the least. I'd love to think that this is just the first in a series exploring his life and city, but since Welsh has already written two more novels that have nothing to do with him, it doesn't seem particularly likely. Sadly.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 11 books332 followers
July 28, 2017
I found this in my daughter's room and as I was between books I figured why not. The blurbs made it sound very literary, but I don't agree. It wasn't that well written in my opinion. At the end a minor character is revealed to be another person from earlier in the book, which might have been worked great if that person had made any impression on the reader when he was encountered first off. A missed opportunity.
I don't know. I thought the plot wasn't all that well put together and I found a lot of it unconvincing.
I've been trying to read more entertaining books over the past few months and finding entertaining too often = poorly written and forgettable. I'm going to have to read something highbrow or classic or plain weird.
Profile Image for Fiona.
319 reviews343 followers
June 18, 2014
Four stars, extremely happily given - excellent work, Louise Welsh. Masterful prose. A much needed LGBT-heavy addition to the usually pallor/bald-patch/ex-wife Rebus-alike characters. A very good mystery - not the one I was expecting to solve, and I didn't see the last two or three chapters coming at all. Good interplay between police and non-police. I really enjoyed this. More of you, please, Louise Welsh. What a great find.

(Warning to the wise - porn, everywhere. Well-written sex scene. But a whoooole lot of graphic, violent porn. Just in case you weren't expecting it. Consider my pearls clutched.)
Profile Image for Jim Coughenour.
Author 4 books178 followers
July 13, 2007
I picked up this book in Scotland a couple years ago, before it was available in the US, and loved it! It's got everything I enjoy in a bleak, embittered European crime novel, starting with a seedy but sophisticated gay auctioneer named Rilke — who manages to get himself involved in all sorts of shady and dangerous shenanigans.

Welsh writes with brio (as well as demonstrating an alarming insight into the raw mechanics of rough trade). The prose is edgy, laced with humor and poison.

Also highly recommended: The Bullet Trick and Tamburlaine Must Die.

Profile Image for Erica.
322 reviews32 followers
February 5, 2021

Writing was good, but didn't really care much for the story.
Profile Image for Guy.
704 reviews31 followers
November 11, 2022
"Never expect anything."

A fascinating debut that is rooted in the noir tradition with some neo-gothic touches and enough traits to set it apart from run-of-the mill contemporaries. It reminded me somewhat of the grimness and moral ambiguity of some of Ken Bruen's work, but transplanted to the seedy parts of Glasgow. In Rilke ("a gay auctioneer and accidental sleuth"), Welsh has created an unusual, memorable protagonist, while the novel as a whole can't make up its mind whether it's a literary novel with some genre fiction twists, or the other way around. Anyway, a light four, but very promising for a first novel, so I'm looking forward to reading more of her work, in particular the follow-up to this one, which appeared earlier this year, twenty years after its predecessor.
Profile Image for Elisabeth.
948 reviews2 followers
September 18, 2022
This book was quite intense in the topics it covered, tension was very much created when he got involved with shady characters who one wouldn't want any dealings with on the negative side. A chance occurrence of a customer choosing that company out of many competitors and his own moral code that didn't allow to drop the matter of a girl in pictures looking dead. Incorporating an insight into human trafficking and how it might occur, this thought provoking, although sometimes not quite believable, story was keeping tensions on high for much of its pages.
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books296 followers
March 31, 2011
I found this a strange book, intriguing in parts, but very uneven. Written in the first person, it gives us a good insight into the mind of the protagonist, Rilke, but the other characters are more sparsely defined.

The premise is intriguing - Rilke, an auctioneer, is called in to clear the house of a recently deceased man. His sister insists that it must be done very quickly. In the locked attic, he finds a mass of erotica and some photographs suggestive of a long-ago murder, and decides to investigate himself.

The investigation has its moments, although it is very patchy, and punctuated by unrelated incidents. There is a great deal of gratuitous homosexual sex of the most casual nature. The first instance tells us something about Rilke, and in one encounter we are aware of his fantasies, but the rest feels superfluous. There is also a violent encounter with a supposed friend who tries to kill him in a bout of religious fervour, which has nothing to do with the plot.

Sadly, the climactic moment of the book occurs elsewhere, and we only see the aftermath, which feels rather as if we popped out to make a cup of tea during a TV show and returned to find the credits rolling. Then the ending gives us a great deal of exposition, which feels curiously flat.

The writing is very heavy on supposedly colourful description, which often seems to substitute for action, and the Glaswegian dialect often feels rather uneasy, as if the writer has sprinkled it on for effect. There is a good story somewhere in the background here. If it had been brought to the fore and supported by more action and better pacing, and less absorption in homoerotica, this could have been a much more readable book.
Profile Image for Ape.
1,694 reviews36 followers
June 20, 2012
I read this in a day, it was such a cracking, addictive read. I'm going to have to keep an eye open for her other books.

Set in Glasgow, this tale takes you into the underbelly of auction houses, antiques and the world of drugs and pornography. The narrator is an auctioner, Rilke, who is hired by an eldery woman to clear her recently deceased brother's town house (full of expensive antiques) in a third of the usual time, with a request that Rilke destroys everything in her brother's private study up in the attic. During his first assesment of this room, he finds a large collection of what I suppose you'd call literary pornography, and a collection of photographs depicting sado-sexual scenes, and what appears to be a sequence of snuff photographs. But are they staged fakes, or did it really happen? Rilke, who seems to be a bit of a mess himself, gets drawn into an obsession with these photographs, trying to find out the truth, without possibily getting anywhere, but in the process uncovering a lot more nasty things....
Displaying 1 - 30 of 331 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.