“Wallow in it!”
As one of my favorite sister-in-laws (sisters in law?) recently put it, when one receives extravagant praise ,”Don’t hide under a rock. Wallow in it.”
Here forthwith is some unabashed wallowing, a complete reprinting of today’s excellent review of The Cutting from my hometown paper, The Portland Press-Herald:
Detective gives depth, life to Portland murder-mystery August 2, 2009
When author James Hayman moved on from a full career as a creative advertising director in New York, he packed his bags for Maine. And he didn’t come alone.
With Hayman came his wife, artist Jeanne O’Toole Hayman, and his fictional creation, Michael McCabe, a high-level police detective eager to turn his decaying cop’s life in New York City into a new life in Portland for himself and his young daughter.
Hayman has done him proud. In “The Cutting,” he gives readers a suspenseful police procedural whirling around a character who has the brains, courage and human concern to be the reader’s hero from start to finish.
All in all, if that sounds like a rave review, it’s because I intend this to be one. Rarely does a new novelist make a debut, in Maine or anywhere else, as polished, well-paced and plotted as this one.
Even less often does a writer create characters as well-drawn and centered as Hayman gives us with his Portland Police Detective Sgt. Mike McCabe, three years into life in his new city.
The book piqued my interest from the first page, and I didn’t stop thinking about it until the tale was told and the book was done.
The story centers on young athletes, busy and strong, who disappear from their lives in Portland only to have their bodies later discovered – hidden away except for their hearts, which have been painstakingly removed.
Hayman sets McCabe on the case. So does Portland Police Chief Tom Shockley, a man with a sharp eye for the media and a taste for public news conferences.
“McCabe, we’ve just had a horrible murder of an innocent teenaged girl. On the very same day, another young woman is kidnapped,” Shockley tells him. “The public has a right to know what’s going on. What we’re doing to catch the killer. The media expects you to be part of the briefings, and so do I.
“Cases like these don’t happen in Portland – at least not very often – but they’re part of the reason I pushed back against both the union and department tradition to offer you a job.”
All was not nobility of purpose in this order to share the stage, however, and McCabe knew it. “He knew it wasn’t the need for a press briefing that was bugging him. That was a given,” he thought.
“What was really (bothering) him was his feeling that, deep down, Shockley saw Katie Dubois’ murder as an opportunity to generate headlines that’d make him look good, headlines that might even lend traction to his rumored run for governor.”
So, Hayman’s new hero comes to Portland with more than courage and compassion; he comes with city shrewdness and big-time smarts.
It is part of the richness of “The Cutting” that McCabe also humanizes his environment, bringing it both honor and depth.
Hayman gives him a first-rate portrait of Portland in which to enact his manhunt. And, in addition to the daughter his ex-wife left behind, he gives McCabe a credible romance and a second waiting in the wings – this one with his police partner, Detective Maggie Savage. All are part of a large and credible cast that enhances this book.
But it is McCabe who brings its pages to life and gives it depth. “Standing here in a scrap yard in Portland, Maine, McCabe suddenly had the feeling he was back in New York,” Hayman writes. “It wasn’t like he was imagining it. Or remembering it. It was like he was really there. He could hear the rush of the city. He could smell the stink of it. A hundred bloodied corpses paraded before his eyes.
“His right hand drew comfort from resting on the handle of his gun. Mike McCabe once again lured to the chase.
“He knew with an absolute certainty that this was his calling. That it was here, among the killers and the killed, that he belonged. No matter how far he ran, no matter how well he hid, he’d never leave the violence or his fascination with it behind.”
Readers can only hope those words also frame a promise to them from Hayman. Mike McCabe emerges from “The Cutting” a detective many readers are going to want enriching Maine for a long, long time.”