I never thought I’d be spending Inauguration Day reading a book set in Washington, D.C. However, The Cutaway is more of a novel that happens to be set in Washington than it is a “Washington novel.” There is a brief scene set during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but otherwise, it’s safe to pick up even if you’re suffering from political overload.
The Cutaway tells the story of Virginia Knightly, a TV news producer investigating the disappearance of Evelyn Carney, a young attorney working at a prestigious D.C. law firm. Evelyn had been dining with her husband, who had recently returned from a lengthy military deployment, when she abruptly stormed out—and vanished. Virginia feels that the lawyer’s mysterious disappearance from affluent Georgetown will make a killer story, and decides to pursue it.
Complicating matters for Virginia is her station’s new news director, who seems to have it out for her, and is intent on slashing the budget, possibly breaking up Virginia’s loyal team of behind-the-scenes and on-air talent. There’s also the fact that Virginia has a rocky romantic history with the new commander of Criminal Investigations, who is actively involved in the missing-persons case.
Christina Kovac herself has a long history in TV news, so she brings an insider’s perspective to her first novel. There are also some very nicely written passages about Virginia’s fraught relationship with her dying father. However, Kovac does fall into the trap of sending her heroine into a deserted and dangerous place to search for clues—anyone who has read a zillion mysteries, as I have, will be tempted to shout “NOOOO!” at that point in the book. There are a couple other places where I felt I was a step ahead of Virginia (particularly one involving a bugged cell phone), but Kovac’s strengths as a prose stylist and plotter are enough to outweigh the rookie missteps.
Note: The Cutaway will be published on March 21, 2017. Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the review copy.