7 April 2010

Review: THE FIRST CUT, Dianne Emley

This review was originally published elsewhere

Random House Australia, Transworld Publishers, Aug 2006

Los Angeles Police Department police officer Frankie Lynde is playing some very dangerous games indeed. She enjoys the power that her uniform represents, but she likes to dress as hooker. Frankie is tall, striking in appearance, and enjoys the effect she has on people, particularly men. And now she is dead.

Nan Vining has returned to work in the Pasadena Police Department after a year off. She was critically wounded a year ago, stabbed in the neck by a man posing as a real estate salesman. Nan hovered between life and death for some time. Has she returned to work too soon? The person who stabbed her has not been apprehended and she is convinced she will meet him again. She keeps having panic attacks as small things remind her of that incident. Nan sees everything in terms of its relationship to TBM (The Bad Man - the man who shot her), and she is convinced there is a link between her own wounding and this latest case where the female LAPD officer has been found with her throat cut, although there is little to support her theory.

For most of the novel the reader is in little doubt about who murdered Frankie Lynde. But is he Nan’s TBM? As the story progresses the actions by the murderer become more bizarre and, for me, increasingly unlikely.

THE FIRST CUT is Dianne Emley's first and so far only novel. The cover has comments on it by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Connelly, and her website also has praise from Lisa Gardner and Lisa Jackson. Certainly they all write the sort of books she has attempted. I'm not sure they have invested many hours in reading this one. A lot of energy has gone into marketing Dianne Emley. She has her own website where she says that Nan Vining, the central character of THE FIRST CUT, is the hero of her suspense series (a series of only one book as far as I can see).

This is an issue laden first novel, as if the author could not decide which of her ideas was the most important: a policewoman killed in uniform when she is off-duty; the dangers of working undercover, of coming too close to criminals; the legacy of killing someone in the course of duty; how a single parent copes with shift work, and work where the hours are not always set; how a police officer copes with a near-death experience and then returns to work; relationships with colleagues; acquiring a reputation among your colleagues – Vining calls it a “jacket” – sometimes characteristics she doesn’t want to be known for. Vining has help from the supernatural: Frankie Lynde’s corpse speaks to her, sends her thought messages, and she hears voices that no-one else can hear.

THE FIRST CUT is not unreadable, the story is quite good, but there are two things that annoy me. It feels over-marketed and under-edited. The story is written mainly from Vining’s point of view, and she is supposedly representative of modern policing. She is ambitious, critical of women who don’t work, sometimes unprincipled and violent. I’m not sure I want to meet her again.

My rating: 3.7

From Dianne Emley's own site:

October 2006 Review first published on Murder & Mayhem

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