Ruby is a vlogger – a You Tube sensation with two million followers tuning in to watch her make-up tutorials and get her advice on the best and worst of the cosmetics and diet industry. Popular with her audience and with companies lining up to get her to endorse their products, she has the perfect life. When she walks out of the flat she shares with her parents one evening and doesn’t return, although out of character, they have nothing to be worried about. Do they?
At least that’s what the police think and for Detective Sergeant Zain Harris it makes no sense that they have been called out to the disappearance of a young woman in her twentie,s just a few hours after she ‘disappeared’. Even less sense that Police Crime Commissioner Justin Hope seems to be personally interested into the investigation, on behalf of a family he has never met. There is absolutely no reason to suspect foul play and Ruby is old enough to take care of herself. And yet something feels off, even to Zain. And when Ruby’s father is sent a video of Ruby, scared and pleading for her life, it seems that her parents were right to be worried.
But who would have reason to abduct Ruby and to what end? No ransom has been asked for and the video holds no clues as to motive. Detective Inspector Kate Riley and her team are under pressure to provide instant results, Ruby’s social media fans demanding immediate answers. But the team can find no real evidence that anyone had reason to harm Ruby. Other than perhaps one of her two million followers. People who both worship and troll in equal measure. After all, when it comes to the world of internet celebrity, social media and with unrestricted, monitored access to You Tube, you don’t really know just who is watching you. Do you?
‘Cut to the Bone’ by Alex Caan is a brilliant, fast paced nail biter of a story, tapping into the murky world of a growing on-line presence, where everything, particularly the lives of the younger generations, is managed at the stroke of a touchscreen, the tap of a key or the uploading of a video. In a society where fame and notoriety are as easy to come by as uploading a video to a web-site, where your life can be shared with thousands and millions of people instantly, the dangers inherent in that simple fact are almost endless and the access people have to your lives, almost unrestricted. Frightening thought, isn’t it? And Alex Caan taps into this fear brilliantly.
Yes, the basic concept is not new. There has been a growing fear about the darker side of social media and the internet in general for a long time now. That will never go away. But the knowledge which informs this story, the understanding of the facts behind the media spin, even some of the (hopefully) fictional super spy-techy programs Zain uses to speed up the investigation, add a new dimension to the story, allowing the rapid pace of the story to be maintained. That, along with short, sharp chapters at just the right time, drive the narrative, and increase the sense of urgency of the investigation. Even when all looks bleak for Ruby, an implicit threat at the end of a second video means that the team cannot slow down for one moment, and the frustration of the main characters can be felt in every page, every action and reaction.
The characters themselves… Where to begin? With the possible exception of highly moralistic and ethical Ruby, who other than through second hand accounts from friends and family, we don’t really get to have a clear picture of, practically everyone else seems to be hiding something or have some kind of character flaw. Michelle – perhaps the most straightforward of the team – has an expensive nut brittle/toffee addiction. Stevie has a chip on her shoulder, resentful of the promotion she didn’t get. Rob – well he’s a bit of a tart really. Would like to think he is deeper than he is judged to be but, while proficient at his job, shows little evidence of profoundness hopping from bed to bed. PCC Hope is hiding his real motivation for taking over the investigation from the whole team. Zain is hiding, not always successfully, a dark moment from his past which threatens both his physical and mental health. And DI Kate Riley? Well she’s hiding pretty much everything.
And yet I like them all. A lot. I think I may well have a bit of a book crush on Zain (always had a thing for the damaged ones). The characters are so well developed, each with their own traits, both good and bad, that it is hard to not like them. As for the others, the distraught parents, the callous and fame obsessed boyfriend, even the team at MindNet, the management and tech company who help add a professional touch to Ruby’s videos and yet do not seem to truly have her best interests at heart, all add an element of deception and add many distended layers to a complex and twisted tale. To a world where everyone seems unable to tell the whole truth.
I have to be completely honest now. I absolutely love-love-loved this book. I really didn’t know what to expect when I added it to my tbr list but I am so very glad that I did. It is jam packed full of heart-stopping moments, a real snag-em-and-drag-em-in opening, conspiracy theories, misdirection, dishonesty, moments of frustration and moments of full on sympathy, not just for Ruby but for the members of the team on the investigation. This is a team I want to know more about. There are some heart stopping moments when all seems lost as well as a sense of hope and second chances. Or third….
This is definitely one of my top reads for the year and I can’t wait to see what Alex Caan delivers next. I don’t know that there are enough stars in a 5 star Amazon/GoodReads rating system to do my feelings about this book justice, and it’s one of those stories which has me even considering changing my own classification system. It also make me very thankful to be a very minor, bit-part twitter player with a barely followed blog. Who needs fame anyway… ;o)
But for now… A bit, fat, conspiratorial, can’t-wait-for-the-next-one, 5 stars from me. Plus a virtual chocolate cake. Five layers. With extra fudge and swiss-meringue frosting. And chocolate curls.
My thanks to publishers Bonnier Publishing, Twenty7 and NetGalley for the copy of ‘Cut To The Bone’ in exchange for my review.
‘Cut to the Bone’ by Alex Caan is available to order here: