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Hayder, Mo - 'Skin'
Paperback: 464 pages (Nov. 2009) Publisher: Bantam Books ISBN: 0553820508

This book takes up almost immediately from where the last book, RITUAL, - which mainly focused on the search for the perpetrators behind a series of gruesome crimes, related to African witchcraft - finished. At the end of the last book, Flea (Phoebe), head of the Avon and Somerset underwater search unit, had lent her car to her brother, who had driven it home drunk, closely followed by a police traffic unit. Flea hid her brother inside, and told the police that she had been driving her car home, to cover up for her brother.

In this book, a few days later, she discovers a body of a missing woman (Misty Kitson, footballer's wife) in the boot. (Quite why it takes her this long to find the body is a bit of a mystery!) Her brother claims not to have remembered what happened, but it is clear to Flea that he ran the woman over when drunk, and then put her body in the boot. She decides to try to protect her brother by hiding the body close to where the accident happened, despite her brother's inability to help or even remember what happened, or the risk to her job if discovered.

Sandwiched into this tense storyline, is Jack's suspicion that a number of apparent suicides involving women, sharing some common features, look out of character, and may be murders. His suspicions prove correct, and he has to start searching for a serial murderer with an interest in skin, the largest organ in the body.

These two story lines remain mostly separate. Chapters that deal with Flea's search for the place where the hit and run accident happened, her unravelling at work as she tries to deal with the problem undetected and the dilemma it poses, are interspersed with Jack's search for the murderer. When Jack eventually finds the murderer, it is somehow unsatisfying and almost brushed over so that the story can re-focus on Flea.

I was a bit disappointed with this book as it didn't quite present a coherent whole, and contained a few too many twists in the plot that seemed just a bit too unlikely. The two different story lines didn't quite mesh together satisfactorily, although the individual story lines worked well. On the one hand, the use of the 'walking man', the tramp that walks from place to place, whom Jack goes to talk to some evenings, works well as a plot device, helping Jack to work things out. But on the other, it isn't clear why the shadowy 'Tolokoshe' that was part of the last book, might be following Jack and Flea in this one. There are also some extremely contrived co-incidences in an attempt to link the two main stories, and one in particular that helps Flea to evade detection, is really just a bit too convenient. If you are interested in following the stories of Jack and Flea, both solitary types with determined characters, who should really get together, but don't quite make it, then it is worth reading, but overall it's a bit of a mixed bag.

Read another review of SKIN.

Michelle Peckham, England
February 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 28/02/2010 09:55