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A Thousand Cuts: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First American Edition edition (March 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021505
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,013,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the wake of a London school shooting, Det. Insp. Lucia May finds herself unable to accept the simple version of what transpired in Lelic's outstanding debut—that Samuel Szajkowski, a new history teacher, gunned down two students and a colleague in an assembly hall before turning the weapon on himself. While Szajkowski was the subject of cruel pranks from his first day on the job, pranks that escalated to serious physical injury, May resists her supervisor's directives to write a straightforward final report, and looks into a possible link between the massacre and an off-campus beating of a student. Artfully offering a range of perspectives on the events leading up to the fatal day, Lelic manages to make the murderer sympathetic as he sensitively explores the varying degrees of responsibility for the tragedy borne by others whose response to bullying was inadequate. This deeply human and moving book heralds a bright new talent. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When Detective Inspector Lucia May is assigned to investigate a school shooting, she is expected to interview witnesses and wrap things up quickly. Recently hired history teacher Samuel Szajkowski walked into a school assembly and shot three students and a fellow teacher before turning the gun on himself. But what Lucia discovers about why Samuel, a socially awkward but very dedicated teacher, did what he did is nearly as appalling as the horrific crime scene. A toxic school culture, in which students bullied each other as well as their teachers while the administration turned a blind eye, has personal resonance for Lucia, since she, the only woman in her department, has been on the receiving end of increasingly hostile remarks from her male colleagues. Lelic, a former journalist, switches points of view between firsthand accounts of the event given by students, teachers, and parents and third-person narration of the investigation, an incredibly effective technique that gives his debut novel great immediacy and depth. Lelic wastes not a word in this searing indictment of a culture inured to cruelty: “Why were the weak obliged to be so brave when the strong had license to behave like such cowards?” --Joanne Wilkinson

Customer Reviews

While it's a confusing style, Lelic makes it perfectly understandable.
Jill Meyer
I rated it three stars instead of four only because I wasn't take away with the writing itself.
Erin in Texas
It was a little tough to get through, but definitely an interesting story line.
Al

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Told in alternating chapters of witness statements and straight narrative, this engrossing book explores what leads up to a shooting in a London school in which three students and a teacher are shot, before the gunman turns the weapon on himself. There's no mystery in who did it - obviously. But having shot himself, there is no clear source of information on what drove him to this action. The school and the police see it as a tragic, but clear cut event. All that is except for female detective Lucia May. Perhaps it is her female sensitivity that leads her to not accepting the easy answers, or perhaps its her own treatment within the all male environment of the Met that won't let her rest until the real issues are addressed.

The book is fast paced and well written. By and large the difficult task of making each witness statement sound distinct from each other is carried off well. Not only that, but at the start of each interview you are never sure who is speaking, but each becomes clear without the author ever seeming to labour the point. The result is a disturbing, poignant exposé of what the press would call "institutionalised" bullying both in the school system and the police. Exposed too are the all too real effects of political pressures that have the effect of maintaining the status quo.

Lucia May in particular is a well drawn character - and one that I'd love to read more about. It is her story and her investigation and perhaps some of the other characters are less well fleshed out, although equally this affords pathos to the story, which is all too real and feasible.

I liked the general tone of the ending, but wasn't quite convinced by Lucia's final lines, which didn't seem likely to have had the effect that they are suggested to have, but all in all, a terrific, thought provoking book and highly recommended.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James M. Rawley on March 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great mystery debut. The hero gets bullied (sexual harassment) while she investigates an assassin who was driven to kill by bullying at his school.

It's a mystery melodrama, not a literary novel, even though its literary techniques give the book far more life than most mystery stories have. The policewoman heroine is bullied on the job too much for believability (the PRIME SUSPECT tv series did this kind of thing more subtly, and better) and the villainous school headmaster tolerates -- even encourages -- student bullies who are just short of homicidal. The result is that the reader feels more and more frustrated and outraged, while individual scenes tend to sag a tiny bit. We can be made to hate many of the characters; it's harder to believe in them fully.

Nevertheless this is a tremendous effort. I got angry reading, and a short time later (the book is the length of a Robert B. Parker novel) I was deeply satisfied by a nice bittersweet ending. May Mr. Lelic write more and more of these.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Ray VINE VOICE on November 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Detective Inspector Lucia May is charged with investigating a shooting by a teacher at a school assembly, her supervisor expects a quick wrap up of the murder/suicide since there were hundreds of witnesses. Lucia's suspicions are raised by the fact one of the pupils from the school is hospitalized after being beaten and traumatized; a crime which no one claims to have witnessed. Rather than writing the report her governor requests, Lucia investigates further and uncovers a culture of bullying at the school that is perpetrated by both the faculty as well as the students. The hostile work environment the shooter faced is similar to the misogynistic climate of the police force, where she is the only female detective.

About half of the chapters in A Thousand Cuts are written in third person and focus on Lucia's investigation and life. The other chapters are the statements from witnesses Lucia interviews. At first the format is a bit jarring as it takes a few paragraphs to figure out who each narrator is, but the way that Simon Lelic gives each character a distinct voice and presents the testimonies in such a way as to tell a coherent and engrossing story makes this book truly unique. This is the author's first novel, and I will be eagerly awaiting his future works.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. White on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Why was the onus always on the weak when it was the strong that had the liberty to act? Why were the weak obliged to be so brave when the strong had license to behave like such cowards?"

So asks DI Lucia May in A Thousand Cuts (originally published in the UK under the title Rupture), the debut novel from author Simon Lelic. May is the detective charged with investigating the seemingly open and shut case of a shooting at a North London comprehensive school (the equivalent of an American public high school) that leaves five dead, including the gunman. The investigation that unfolds is not so much a whodunit as a whydunit, as it is clear from the outset that the shooter was one of the school's teachers, Samuel Szajkowski, who opened fire during a school assembly killing three students and a fellow teacher before turning the gun on himself.

Szajkowski, a young man new to both teaching and the school, is described by students and faculty alike as having been somewhat of a misfit, odd and aloof, who never quite found his footing at the school. This, however, does not seem to DI May to be sufficient explanation for Szajkowski's murderous outburst, and her interviews with students and faculty indeed uncover a truth which is much more sinister.

Lelic reveals the events which led up to the shooting through chapters that alternate between DI May's first person perspective and monologues from various people - students, parents, faculty - involved with and affected by the tragedy. The monologues are meant to represent transcriptions of interviews taped by DI May during the course of her investigation, but they omit May's side of the conversation.
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A Thousand Cuts: A Novel
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