IN THE CUT by Susanna Moore


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Moore's latest ought to come with a warning label for unwary fans of Sleeping Beauties (1993) and her earlier works. There's nothing beautiful about this one, and you won't be doing much sleeping once you've sampled its nasty fare of mutilation, decapitation, and coldhearted sex. The narrator is a woman who lives in New York City, near Washington Square, and teaches creative writing to college freshmen. Her name may be Franny--one character calls her that twice--but it's never quite acknowledged or made clear. One night, in a bar, this teacher opens the wrong door, searching for a bathroom, and witnesses a red-haired woman's technique: the way she moves her head ""with a dipping motion,"" the noise her mouth makes; the man's black socks, his unshined shoes, the tattoo of a playing card on his wrist. The only thing she manages not to see is the man's face, which turns out to be a fateful omission when the red-haired woman is found murdered (well, not just murdered--nobody in this book is simply murdered--she's ""disarticulated,"" or pulled apart, joint by joint). The teacher is unwillingly caught up now in a drama that involves a serial killer, more gruesome death and dismemberment, and plenty of sex along the way, in every position, clinically detailed, with handcuffs or without. Where all this leads to is a horrific ending involving razors, torture, and the lingering smell of blood. In Moore's previous work, a good, dark undercurrent of sex and violence played well against the lush Hawaiian settings and family stories. Here, there's nothing to offset the darkness--not one real and likable character, never one moment of redemption. In the end, repugnant. That's what a warning label might tell you.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1995
ISBN: 0307387194
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Knopf