"The Devil's Cut" is the second crime novel by Andrew James Greig to be set in a small Highland town (much more obviously Fort William this time) and featuring Detective Inspector James Corstorphine and his younger female colleague, Detective Constable Frankie McKenzie. The first was the justifiably acclaimed "Whirligig", which revolved around the fiendish complexity of the ways in which the murderer killed their victims. The question that will be asked by all fans of "Whirligig" is a simple one: can "The Devil's Cut" possibly be as good? There's no need to worry: in my view it's even better.
This is one of those books which have to be reviewed with caution, to avoid spoilers. I'll let the blurb on the rear cover lead the way as far as the story itself is concerned: "When a distillery owner's body is discovered on top of a remote Scottish mountain, forensics confirm that he died of natural causes. DI Corstophine's concerns are raised however, when the dead man's eccentric sister receives a message, apparently from the beyond the grave. The police are dismissive until it appears the devil himself is intent on attacking other family members. Why is his daughter kept locked and sedated in her room in the baronial mansion? Who or what is stalking his son as he scatters his father's ashes on lonely summits? And what insanity is behind the horrific attacks in their small Highland town? DI Corstophine and his team don't know what they're really facing until it's too late."
"The Devil's Cut" shows just how good a follow-up novel can be. There's a sense in which it's more mainstream than its predecessor, being necessarily shorn of the earlier book's central precept. But there are ways in which the mystery at the heart of "The Devil's Cut" is even more intriguing and as the body count rises you find yourself drawn ever more deeply into the wonderfully constructed plot. I also found that the characters came over much more strongly this time. Perhaps this was to be hoped for and expected as the author comes to know them better in a second book. Perhaps, too, they have more room to flourish because the book doesn't revolve so closely around a single focal point. I also found myself admiring the way Andrew James Greig drew his more minor characters, especially a slightly motley collection of junior police officers. Some of the byplay is particularly good, including a scene with a Taser that had me laughing out loud.
"The Devil's Cut" is not just a worthy successor to "Whirligig", it surpasses it. I'd highly recommend this book to all fans of really good crime novels. Though if you've ever found yourself feeling nervous at night in a remote mountain bothy, it may not leave you feeling any less nervous the next time you visit one!