"The Deepest Cut"
(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky MAR 13, 2009)
"Vining was familiar with the destructiveness of a hidden life. One could try to bury it, yank it out by the roots, douse it with poison, but, like a pernicious weed, it kept sending shoots to the surface, often in a different place, where one would least expect it."
In Dianne Emley's The Deepest Cut, Pasadena detective Nan Vining is trying to piece her life together after it was nearly ended by a psychopath who stabbed her, leaving her with "a diagonal slash across the back of her right hand and a long garish scar on her neck." The attacker, whom Nan has dubbed T. B. Mann (the bad man) for want of a better nickname, left her for dead, but although she flatlined briefly, she managed to survive and is now back at work. Nan is determined to do everything in her power to catch and kill her assailant, but she knows little about him except that he targets high-profile females in law enforcement.
One day, Mann enters her home and leaves behind a shirt with her blood on it. He is taunting her, letting her know that he is biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to finish the job that he started. Meanwhile, Nan is secretly conducting her own illegal investigation. She has stolen evidence and lied to her colleagues, knowing that if she is caught, she will probably lose her job. As it is, her co-workers sense that she is high-strung and paranoid. They call her "Poison Ivy" behind her back and consider her to be a loose cannon who is liable to explode at any moment. Fortunately, Nan has a loving grandmother and the support of her partner, Detective Jim Kissick, who is also her lover. Nan is a single mom whose fourteen-year-old daughter Emily is a source of both pride and exasperation. Em is beginning to show signs of adolescent rebellion and Nan has no idea how she should handle her.
When Nan investigates the murder of a former gang member, she is unaware that this case will somehow converge with her quest for her elusive assailant. The Deepest Cut hits the ground running and keeps the reader engrossed with its well-drawn characters, sharp dialogue, and fast-paced action. To her credit, the author skillfully balances a number of disparate elements that come together seamlessly, including Nan's off and on love life, her struggle to calm her inner demons before she loses her bearings, her efforts to stay on good terms with her volatile teenage daughter, and her desperation to destroy the man who almost destroyed her.
In addition, Emley also provides interesting local color about Pasadena and its environs, showcasing the many ways in which this area is changing. She also touches on the familiar themes of political machinations and rivalries in the police department, the tedious and painstaking detective work that is often necessary to solve crimes, and the role of luck in any investigation. Emley does resort to cliché when she enters the mind of Nan's tormentor. He is your typical sicko who is aroused by the sight of blood and collects souvenirs of his victims. Nevertheless, The Deepest Cut is a generally well-constructed and suspenseful police procedural with psychological depth and a slam-bang conclusion containing some clever twists that most readers will not anticipate.
- Amazon readers rating: from 5 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Deepest Cut at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The First Cut (August 2006) (Kindle version)
- Cut to the Quick (December 2008) (Kindle version)
- The Deepest Cut (February 2009) (Kindle version)
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- Official website for Dianne Emley
- New Mystery Reader interview with Dianne Emley
- Fresh Fiction review of The First Cut
- The Mystery Gazette review of The First Cut
- Fresh Fiction review of The Deepest Cut
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About the Author:
Dianne Emley was born in Los Angeles, California. Except for her junior year in college when she studied at the Université de Bordeaux, France, she's always lived in and around Los Angeles. She has a BA in Philosophy and an MBA in Marketing, both from UCLA. She's held jobs as varied as drill press operator, polling place recruiter, California Department of Consumer Affairs complaint handler, clothing boutique buyer, egg and poultry industry marketer, software company sales and service manager, and technical writer.
While having traveled the world, she lives five miles from where she grew up with her husband Charlie.