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I've read Hoffman's previous books: Retribution, Last Witness, Plea of Insanity and Pretty Little Things, which are all part of a loose series. They are all set in the same prosecutors' office, but the lead characters aren't always the same. I enjoyed all of them, so when I spotted this one in my local supermarket for £3.50 (technically it was any 2 for £7 - mum wanted a copy of this one too!) I just had to snap it up.
The Cutting Room is the latest addition to the 'series'. The original protagonist, prosecutor CJ Townsend, makes a reappearance, as does Cupid - the serial killer she put in prison and who just so happens to also be the man who violently raped her when she was a teenager. Detective Manny Alvarez is also still a major player. New to the reader this time is Daria DeBianchi, a state prosecutor with her sights set on bigger and better things.
Daria (pronounced Dairy-ah, apparently) is the lead prosecutor on the case of State v. Talbot Lunders. The impossibly good-looking defendant has been charged with the abduction and murder of a girl from a nightclub. The evidence is circumstantial, but Daria and Manny are certain of his guilt. That is, until a new piece of evidence comes to light that sparks a memory for the detective. Enter Cupid. The sadistic murderer has information that will not only solve the case, but will make Daria's career. But (there's always a 'but' isn't there?) he won't part with that information unless he gets off Death Row.
Rather predictably, and somewhat tediously, the two main characters end up getting together. I could have happily lived without those scenes. If I wanted to read gratuitous sex scenes I'd buy 50 Shades, not a courtroom crime thriller.
Also, rather predictably, the lead character gets herself into a life-threatening situation. It's a tried and tested formula in the crime thriller genre. But there's a twist to this one that I absolutely did not see coming.
It had been so long since I read the previous books that I had forgotten much of the back-story. It didn't occur to me to re-read them as I hadn't read the blurb on the back and therefore didn't realise the connection to the earlier books. It does still work as a standalone book, but I really would advise reading Retribution at the very least before reading this one.
The narrative moves swiftly, despite longer chapters than seems to be the norm these days in the crime thriller genre. The story is told in the third person, past tense. It doesn't have any immediacy, yet I still found it to be quite the page-turner. We're given just enough background information to be able to identify with Daria, and to care about what happens to her. Manny is a little more of a mystery to the reader. If you've not read the previous books then I suspect you'll find CJ Townsend difficult to identify with. In fact, even if you have read them she's not the most likeable of characters. She is very much damaged goods.
I'd recommend this book to fans of the crime thriller genre. It has a few little twists that I rather liked, and it was an entertaining, if not compelling, read.