(I’ve intended to write about The Elegance of the Hedgehog for days now, but as it is one of the best things I’ve read in a long while I’m nervous about doing it justice. Perhaps when I’m finished with my third read-through I’ll have some better-formulated thoughts…)

…’Til then,  to take a break from small essays on the Meaning of Life, Art and Beauty I decided to turn to noir, death and snuff photography. Cheery, no?

Louise Welsh’s The Cutting Room was on sale at Powell’s and the jacket blurbs said things like “delightfully seedy,” “unputdownable” and “macabre cast of characters.” Sold! I’m pretty easy when it comes to weird and creepy thrillers.

And weird and creepy this is. It’s set in Glasgow, where the grimy alleyways, soot-stained gothic/georgian buildings and yeast-scented Clyde are way more interesting than the European mishmash that is Edinburgh. In fact, having busted through this book in just over a day, all that’s really staying with me is the extremely well-wrought sense of place.

It’s in the language: sentences are short and taut and chapters are headed with lines from famous poems–Keats, Tennyson, Blake–about death. The action is all at night, and in the best noir tradition the hero, Rilke, has too many personal demons to ever really be the good guy (or get a good night’s sleep). He follows the trail of a series of photographs of a woman being tortured to death–are they real? Staged?– through private clubs, Kelvingrove Park at night (not a good idea), exotic porn shops and antique booksellers as a man driven by …? Motive here is what tripped me up. I kept reading because of the compelling creepiness of the book, not because I understood his attachment to the woman in the photographs or wanted to find out what happened to her. That’s a pat analysis and  I’m sure if I think about this more carefully subtler patterns will emerge, but frankly, having spent the last couple of hours thinking about what darkness humans are capable of, I’m ready for something a little more uplifting.