Looking for Scottish authors in preparation for an upcoming trip, Megan at Francie and Finch pointed me to Louise Welsh, a writer and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Both titles are 1 and 2 in a series that feature a promiscuous, gay auctioneer named Rilke, who works for a struggling auction house in Glasgow. For those who like to listen, Scottish actor Alan Cumming narrates this series to perfection. In both books, Rilke’s company is hired to expedite the sale of a considerable estate with complete discretion.
In The Cutting Room, Bowery Auctions liquidates the home of the wealthy and recently deceased Roddy McKindless. Rilke discovers a collection of snuff photographs hidden in an extensive pornography library. The woman featured in the photos is stuck in his memory. Is she alive or dead and how can he put his mind at ease? In The Second Cut, Rilke follows a tip for a questionable estate sale from his friend JoJo, who turns up dead a few days later. There are additional circumstances that create doubt about the legitimacy of the sale, including the missing matriarch, the intended beneficiary of the auction proceeds. Where do you begin to investigate snuff photography and even though JoJo was known to the police for various recreational activities, why is his death not being investigated as a murder? Rilke’s moral compass compels him to find answers.
Unlike busybody sleuths in cozy mysteries, Rilke moves through the seedy underbelly of Glasgow to investigate with more incentive than sheer nosiness. His professional reputation and livelihood are at stake. The deals he makes to barter information with various characters/criminals often put his life in danger. The cast created by Welsh is colorful, gritty, and uniquely likeable. Given the amount of time between the two books, I am hopeful Louise continues writing Rilke stories and that Alan continues narrating them.
Welsh, Louise, The Cutting Room. Canongate Books Ltd. 2003.
Welsh, Louise, The Second Cut. Canongate Books Ltd. 2022.