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Review of The First Cut by Ali Knight

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Crime Scene

Louise Phillips

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A best friend murdered. 
A marriage going nowhere.
A deadly obsession.


 About the Author

Ali Knight is the author of psychological crime novels WINK MURDER and THE FIRST CUT. She has worked as a journalist and sub-editor at the BBC, Guardian and Observer and helped to launch some of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard‘s most successful websites. She lives with her family in London.

You can visit Ali’s website, www.aliknight.co.uk, and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aliknightauthor.


Review by Triona Walsh

I have certain expectations when I pick up a crime thriller. I’m expecting some crime and I’m expecting to be thrilled!

Specifically, I’m looking for twists and turns that are clever, but not too clever. I want to think I can work it all out and be suitably smug. But, I don’t want to work it out too easily either (cause then it’s no fun). I want a cast of shady characters. I’ve lost count of the amount times I’ve worked out ‘whodunnit’ because the author didn’t provide a wide enough range of plausible murderers. (Dan Brown, hang your head in shame.) There must be action! There must be moments of calm! I must like the protagonist!

No, I’m not fussy.

So, why am I sharing all this with you? Mainly because I reckon Ali Knight, author of ‘The First Cut’, agrees with me. This novel took my check list – Action? Check. Twists and turns? Check. Red herrings and plausible suspects coming out our ears? Check – and satisfied every demand I made.

But. (There’s always a but) – when I fished the book, I felt slightly let down.

Let me explain…

We meet our hero, or more accurately in this case, our heroine, Nicky. She is married to Greg, the widower of her best friend Grace, who was murdered five years previously. No one was ever caught for Grace’s killing and this tragedy has infected Nicky and Greg’s subsequent relationship, slowly killing it. Greg is super safety conscious and paranoid. Nicky is frustrated at her husband’s distance and unwillingness to open up about Grace’s death. They are at breaking point.

Greg works away a lot and in his absence Nicky meets handsome young Adam. A flirtation ensues. And this is where my first problem with the book cropped up. The set-up takes too long – we are nearly 100 pages into the 300 page book before the real action starts, before our heroine finds herself in peril. We do get plenty of hints that something strange is afoot, but there isn’t a whole lot of action. And seeing as we know it’s a crime thriller, it’s why we picked it up in the first place, we already assume something is up. What we want is some pace, some plot.

Then it all changes. The pendulum swings too much in the other direction and the pace gets frenetic. Adam isn’t what he seems. There’s his strange family and their tragic history. His violent stalker ex-girlfriend. A hitman crops up regularly who seems to know a lot about Greg and his past. Nicky is held captive and needs to escape. There’s another murder. Our hitman gets closer. Phew! It’s exhausting.

And there are frustrating moments in the story – Nicky’s character does silly things. She drinks a cup of coffee that has obviously been spiked but almost wilfully chooses not to put two and two together. She is running for her life through the Notting Hill Carnival at one stage but decides not to turn to any of the many police on duty as it ‘would take too long to explain’ why she was running for her life. These unbelievable actions on her part were needed to facilitate the plot, but as a reader, who wants to be submerged in this fictitious world, silly implausibilities really take away from the enjoyment.

As the story reaches its pinnacle, the reveal, the explanation and the ‘oh thank God the killer’s dead, oh no, watch out they’re not really dead’ final extra reveal, it’s all just been a bit too much. There were too many possibilities. Too many characters. My head was spinning. There was no way the reader could have put all the puzzle pieces together and worked it out, which as you know is so much part of the fun of the crime thriller. (Of course, I could just have been a bit thick!)

So, I guess, I liked what Ali Knight was trying to do. I liked that she was trying to make this a really good, solid, satisfying mystery. She wants the reader to join her on the wild ride and she wants us to have all the fun of trying to work it out without making it too obvious. While I’m not sure I’d pick up another of her books, I do reckon her story will stay a lot longer with me than many of the forgettable thrillers I’ve read previously. I’m not sure what the author would make of that kind of review, but hopefully she won’t be crying into her pillow too much.


You can read more about The First Cut, including reviews and links to order HERE 

Triona Walsh has been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies. She was a winner in the NWA Awards and The Jonathon Swift Award, and has been shortlisted many times for her short stories. Her ambition is to write the next great Irish novel, but she’ll settle for getting out of the slush pile!

You can visit Triona’s blog at http://domesticoubliette.blogspot.ie/ and follow her on Twitter on @DomesticOub

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