A spy thriller set in 1980s America and the Scottish Highlands
Slow burning thriller set in Washington DC, plus the author shares top tips in the city
8th April 2017
The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, slow burning thriller set in Washington DC.
“Sometimes the news is what happens when the camera cuts away….”
Set against the political hub of Washington DC, this thriller takes you behind the scenes of a newsroom, where political intrigue and mysteries are as prevalent and ingrained as in the wider city backdrop.
Virginia Knightly is a true investigative newshound, a news producer who is really drawn to the case of a missing woman, Evelyn Carney, who was having dinner with her husband but left in distress. From that point onwards the trail goes cold. Machiavellian dealings both at the station and elsewhere disrupt the detective work, but Virginia is a sassy woman who will not be deflected from her averred mission to find out what happened. Was she murdered, or did she hook up with another man, with whom she was perhaps having an affair? Just two of the manifold options on the table….
As she delves deeper into the case, she identifies potential candidates for murder, yet with no body in evidence it is mere conjecture. She also has to pace sharing her findings as she wants her station to be heading the dissemination of any developing news. It’s a hard balance to manage.
The construction of the story unfolds as though we are watching news bites and updates as the investigation revs up. It is an ideal format for a TV adaptation. The city of Washington DC gets a good look-in, and a handy map was supplied by the publisher to gauge the locations where some of the main events take place. You can tell that the author is really familiar with the ways of news gathering, news dissemination and with the city itself – and indeed she has kindly agreed to share ‘her’ city and photos in a #talkinglocationwith... feature below.
I very much enjoyed the writing style, whilst the storyline left me a little disengaged. The novel had a good, strong opener, at times a little heavy on the procedural, I guess for me I would have liked to see a little more nimbleness in the narrative. However, if you are an unswerving fan of political intrigue and edgy newsroom backstories, then this will definitely be one for you.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Over to Christina who is talking to us about Washington DC, which she knows really well… our #talkinglocationwith… feature
My debut novel, THE CUTAWAY, takes place in present-day Washington, DC, where I covered news for seventeen years. The city’s beauty still fills me with wonder—the granite memorials along the Potomac River, the wide gravel paths on the national mall, the Smithsonian museums that showcase science and art and history, including now the National Museum of African American History—finally, thankfully. I still visit those places. It never gets old, not even for a long-time resident.
But let me tell you a secret: those landmarks only tell half the city’s story. Washington, DC, is truly two places: Washington of the white buildings, full of old gray men with inexplicable ideas, and the District of Columbia, which is official Washington’s antithesis. The two don’t coexist easily. Roam a little to the east of the US Capitol building into the largest historical neighborhood in the city, Capitol Hill (or what we call “the Hill”). It’s diverse and young and energetic and quick to change. Above all, it’s fun.
This is where I placed one of my characters, Evelyn Carney, who at the start of the novel, goes out for a walk and never comes back. Evelyn lives on a street of “two-story row houses with trimmed yards and gravel-lined driveways disappearing into alleys behind the houses. Thick black bars over basement windows… to the east, the distant wail of police sirens. Here the neighborhood seemed to hold its breath.” I once lived there. The 600-block of A Street, SE.
A few blocks away, East Capitol Street dead-ends into the Capitol Building. You’ll have to dodge its dog walkers and baby strollers and joggers on the brick walkways on the wide and lovely avenue of old row houses. Make sure you go east on 8th Street and drop in the famous Eastern Market—especially if it’s a weekend, when it turns into a local arts and crafts fair and farmers market. If military parades are your thing, catch one at the 8th & I Barracks, the oldest military post in the United States. The Marines in their dress blues are a sight to see.
You can catch a play at Folger’s Shakespeare Library, or a little farther, at Arena Stage.
When I lived on the Hill, my favorite haunt was The Dubliner, which served terrific beer and whiskey, and you can settle back and listen to live bands or watch a game on the television above the bar. (In fact, I loved it so much, The Dubliner made an appearance in my novel).
But now H Street is the new hot spot. My friend, Hannah, raves about the Rock and Roll Hotel with its rooftop bar, live performance space for Indie bands, and second floor night club. If you’re a bit homesick, grab a beer at The Queen Vic, a pub with farm-to-table food and a friendly atmosphere. Hop the street car (it costs nothing) and check out H Street’s boutiques and hipster bars and cool restaurants.
If you want to take in the great American pastime, walk about ten blocks south to the Nationals Park. You can buy tickets at the gate. Not in the mood for 35-thousand screaming fans? Walk another block farther to the Riverwalk along the Anacostia, the lesser known of the District’s rivers, and sit on a bench and watch the osprey and bald eagles hunting for fish. You can also rest your eyes on the other side of the river. It’s beautiful and undeveloped and still a bit wild.
Before you head back to the airport, make sure you stop in at East City Bookshop (645 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE) to grab a novel for the flight back. More than a bookstore, East City is a gathering place for the locals to chat about books or rest on the sofas or listen to an author read from her book. When I read for THE CUTAWAY last week, a young girl had popped by after school and asked if she could stay for the event. She had warm dark skin and beautiful braids, and asked the most amazing questions about writing. At the end of the event, she gave me a hug. These are the Washingtonians I know: warm, friendly, smart.
Come to Washington, but give DC a chance, too. Then maybe you’ll fall under the spell of the city’s duality and contradictions—a mystery I’m still working through, as I start work on my second novel set in the city that I love.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful insight into DC. I now so want to visit – my curiosity about the city was already piqued as I read the book!
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