It was supposed to have been the film that was going to take them to the big time, producer Lucio Sabatini and giallo director Alessandro Salerno, moving from the straight-to-video realm of their previous productions to a theatrical release in North America, but the only legacy of Mancipium is the supposed curse attached to the film which marked the end of the careers of many associated with it, the negative reportedly destroyed either to end the curse or to claim the insurance.
Jerome Kelly knew of the film by its reputation but only ever had one interaction with any item directly linked with the film, the night he and the gang he ran with broke into a flat looking for valuables which could be flogged for cash; what he found was a framed poster for Mancipium, but what he ended up with was a stain on his conscience and evidence of his complicity in the hands of a man he would rather have no dealings with.
For Millicent Spark, Mancipium stole twenty four years of her life; the celebrated makeup effects artist of Blood Ceremony and Lucifer’s Charade whose work was to be showcased on a global platform, instead she became the front page story when she was arrested for the murder of her boyfriend, the locked room and bloodstained evidence offering little room for doubt though she protested her innocence.
Her future unlikely to involve any more trips to Cannes or Rome, since her release from prison Millicent has stayed with two friends, three elderly ladies living together looking for a younger housemate to bring some life to their stagnant existence, a connection to the modern world, but what Jerry’s arrival prompts is only more death as the buried curse of Mancipium crawls out of the shadows.
The stomping ground of his long running Jack Parlabane mysteries and the more recent Jasmine Sharp trilogy, Chris Brookmyre is back in his hometown of Glasgow for The Cut, but like his last novel Fallen Angel it has a European scope, a cold case from the warm shores of the Mediterranean which blows an ill wind to the far north.
Described as “a film about the seductive nature of evil that could itself… seduce people into evil deeds,” Mancipium was caught up in the “burn your video nasties” outrage which demanded scapegoats and distractions of which Millicent was one, and unlike Brookmyre’s more immediate investigations putting together the pieces which have long since drifted from their initial positions means the setup is necessarily longer, but when the hook grabs Millicent and Jerry it is a killer.
Memory clouded, evidence scant, witnesses untraceable or dead and Millicent forbidden from travelling abroad by the conditions of her parole, with Millicent having worked in the film industry and Jerry a media studies student both are aware that the art of film is illusion and misdirection and that what sells is more important than what you are selling, and Brookmyre builds a cast of supporting characters who all have a stake in the truth, or its obfuscation.
Fronted by two demographically opposed individuals bonded by circumstance and a love of horror cinema, movie references litter the pages alongside Brookmyre’s wicked humour, Jerry aware of the tragic irony of how an overdue essay suddenly becomes of secondary importance when he has a dead body to dispose of, The Cut departing the easy-access Glasgow locations to become an international affair as the pair unintentionally summon the ghosts of the past in their attempt to exorcise the demons on their tail.