On a balmy June night, Kirsten, a young university student, is strolling home through a silent moonlit park when she is viciously attacked. When she awakes in the hospital, she has no recollection of that brutal night. But then slowly, painfully, details reveal themselves -- dreams of two figures, one white and one black, hovering over her; snatches of a strange and haunting song; the unfamiliar texture of a rough and deadly hand ... In another part of the country, Martha Browne arrives in a Yorkshire seaside town, posing as an author doing research for a book. But her research is of a particularly macabre variety. Who is she hunting with such deadly determination And why The First Cut is a vivid and compelling psychological thriller, from the author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Banks series.
A university student in Northern England is the first to fall prey to the "Student Slasher" in this intricately constructed, stand-alone novel of suspense and revenge, originally published in the U.K. as Caedmon's Song. Robinson, author of the Inspector Alan Banks series, tells the parallel stories of Kirsten and her path to healing ("It was inside where most of the damage had been done") and Martha Browne, an author who arrives in seaside Whitby on a mysterious mission. Kirsten's story is told in past tense, moving from the attack forward to the present, and alternates with chapters about Martha settling into a B and B and determinedly going about her deadly business. Robinson's plot is one of slow revelations-subtle details begin to explain Martha's actions and Kirsten's mental and physical changes-offered with a masterful sense of timing. In the latter part of the book, Susan Bridehead joins the others; the three women then weave together the disparate strands of Robinson's plot. Characters and author alike are interested in matters of the intellect: quotes from Coleridge, Yeats and others abound, and knowledge gained in Kirsten's linguistics class supplies the chief clue that brings the women together in a battle with the killer at the knuckle-biting end. Agent, Dominick Abel. (Sept. 14) Forecast: Robinson's built-in Inspector Banks fan base will buy, as will fans of more intellectual English mysteries. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 10, 2005
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Excerpt from The First Cut by Peter Robinson
Martha Browne arrived in Whitby one clear afternoon in early September, convinced of her destiny.
All the way, she had gazed out of the bus window and watched the landscape become more and more unreal. On Fylingdales Moor, the sensors of the early-warning missile-attack system rested like giant golf balls balanced at the rims of holes, and all around them the heather was in full bloom. It wasn't purple, like the songs all said, but more delicate, maroon laced with pink. When the moors gave way to rolling farmland, like the frozen green waves of the sea it led to, she understood what Dylan Thomas meant by "fire green as grass."
Sea and sky were a piercing blue, and the town nestled in its bay, a pattern of red pantile roofs flanked on either side by high cliffs. Everything was too vibrant and vivid to be real; the scene resembled a landscape painting, as distorted in its way as Van Gogh's wheat fields and starry nights.
The bus lumbered down toward the harbor and pulled up in a small station off Victoria Square. Martha took another quick glance at her map and guidebook as the driver backed into the numbered bay. When the doors hissed open, she picked up her small holdall and followed the other passengers onto the platform.
Arriving in a new place always made Martha feel strangely excited, but this time the sensation was even more intense. At first, she could only stand rooted to the spot among the revving buses, breathing in the diesel fumes and salt sea air. She felt as if she was trying the place on for size, and it was a good fit. She took stock of the subtle tremors her arrival caused in the essence of the town. Others might not notice such things, but Martha did. Everyone and everything from the sand on the beach to a guilty secret in a tourist's heart was somehow connected and in a state of constant flux. It was like quantum physics, she thought, at least insofar as she understood it. Her presence would send out ripples and reverberations that people wouldn't forget for a long time.
She still felt queasy from the journey, but that would soon pass. The first thing was to find somewhere to stay. According to her guidebook, the best accommodation was to be had in the West Cliff area. The term sounded odd when she knew she was on the east coast, but Whitby was built on a kink in the shoreline facing north, and the town is divided neatly into east and west by the mouth of the River Esk.