The Barnes & Noble Review
Critically acclaimed, award-winning British-born writer Peter Robinson delivers a haunting psychological thriller in The First Cut. This chilling tale of a woman's search for a serial killer was inspired by the true crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper.
University student Kirsten is the first victim of a slasher preying on coeds in northern England. She is also unique in that she survived the brutal attack, although the scars she carries -- physical and emotional -- have changed her forever from the carefree girl she once was. The retribution Kirsten desperately desires comes unexpectedly, in the form of Martha Browne, a visitor to the historic seaside town of Whitby on the Yorkshire coast and a woman with a very specific agenda of her own.
As this chilling tale unfolds, the body count rises…and the cost of justice climbs to terrifying heights. Originally published under the title Caedmon's Song, this timeless tale of vengeance was released in Canada during the 1990s and in Great Britain in 2003. Now it makes its distinguished debut in the United States. Sue Stone
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.
Recent university graduate Kirsten survives a brutal Jack the Ripper-style attack of which she has no memory. As Kirsten recovers, she becomes fixated on finding the man who nearly killed her. Miles away, Martha has come to the coastal town of Whitby, where she is doing research for a book. Or is she? Carefully surveying her surroundings, Martha grows more obsessed with the object of her trip. The women's stories are told in alternate chapters until the unsettling end. This atmospheric tale of suspense will keep readers wondering what's really going on, and Robinson fans will enjoy its psychological aspects. This first standalone novel was originally published in Canada and Britain as Caedmon's Song (1991). Highly recommended. Robinson lives in Toronto. [See Mystery Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-Deborah Shippy, Moline P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A taut stand-alone suspenser first published in Canada as Caedmon's Song in 1990, the year Robinson's well-regarded Inspector Banks debuted in the US in Gallows View. Quiet Martha Browne arrives in the Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby with two aims: to gather material for a scholarly project, and to keep her distance from anyone who might be interested in cultivating her acquaintance. It seems clear that her enigmatic project has something to do with the case of Kirsten, a university student who was viciously attacked and left for dead the night before she was to return home to her wealthy parents in Brierley Coombe. And it won't take most readers long to guess the connection between the two women. But Robinson (Close to Home, 2003, etc.) keeps up the suspense by his canny cutting between the two stories and his unnerving penetration into both the scared sense of mission that keeps Martha going and Kirsten's transformation from shocked revulsion to suicidal depression to a determination to find out everything she can about the Student Slasher, the sick assailant who's gone on to kill half a dozen women even less lucky than her. Only the very last pages, violent yet inconclusive, are disappointing. For the most part, though: a brutally efficient page-turner that shows a welcome new side to Banks's accomplished creator.
“Brilliant….dark, frightening [and] satisfying.”
“Harrowing. . . . the suspense builds mercilessly to a high pitch . . . it’s spellbinding.”
“A powerful and haunting novel, ingenious in construction and both intelligent and compassionate.”
Toronto Globe and Mail
Praise for The First Cut:“An exceptionally well-crafted psychological thriller.”
Read an Excerpt
The First Cut A Novel of Suspense
By Robinson, Peter
Perennial Dark Alley ISBN: 006073535X
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 strangelyexcited, 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.
Martha walked along the New Quay Road by Endeavour Wharf. In the estuary, silt glistened like entrails in the sun. A rusted hulk stood by the wharf -- not a fishing trawler, but a small cargo boat of some kind -- and rough, unshaven men wearing dirty T-shirts and jeans ambled around on deck, coiling ropes and greasing thick chains. By the old swing bridge that linked the east and west sides of the town stood a blackboard with the times of high tides chalked in: 0527 and 1803. It was a few minutes before four; the tide should be on its way in.
She walked along St. Ann's Staith, sliding her hand on the white metal railing that topped the stone walls of the quay. Small craft lay beached on the mud, some of them not much more than rowing boats with sails. Ropes thrummed and flimsy metal masts rattled in the light breeze and flashed in the sun. Across the narrow estuary, the white houses seemed to be piled haphazardly beside and on top of one another. At the summit of the cliff stood St. Mary's Church, just as it had, in one form or another, since the Abbot William de Percy built it between 1100 and 1125. The abbey beside it had been there even longer, but it had been crumbling away for over four hundred years, since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, and now there was nothing left but a somber ruin.
Martha felt a thrill at actually seeing these places she had only read about. And she also had a strange sense of coming home, a kind of deja vu. Everything seemed so damn familiar and right. This was the place; Martha knew it. But she'd have plenty of time to explore East Cliff later, she decided, turning her attention back toward where she was going.
The pubs, seafood stalls and souvenir shops on her left gave way to amusement arcades and a Dracula Museum; for it was here, in Whitby, where the celebrated Count was said to have landed. The road veered away from the harbor wall around a series of open sheds by the quayside, where the fish were auctioned before being shipped to processing plants. Obviously, the catch hadn't come in yet, as nothing was going on there at the moment. Martha knew she would have to come down here again and again and watch the men as they unloaded their fish into iced boxes and sold them. But, like everything else, it could wait. Now she had made up her mind, she felt she had plenty of time. Attention to detail was important, and it would help overcome whatever fear and uncertainty remained within her.
She stopped at a stall and bought a packet of shrimp, which she ate as she carried on walking. They sold whelks, winkles and cockles, too, but Martha never touched them. It was because of her mother, she realized. Every time the family had visited the seaside -- usually Weston-super-Mare or Burnham-on-Sea -- and Martha had wanted to try them, her mother had told her it was vulgar to eat such things. It was, too, she had always believed. What could be more vulgar than sticking a pin in the moist opening of a tiny, conchlike shell and pulling out a creature as soft and slimy as snot? Continues...
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