Genre Spotlight: Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

Someone Else’s Skin, Sarah Hilary
Headline, Feb 2014.
RRP: 13.99 GBP, $29.99 AUS

And now for something completely different… Regular readers of my blog will know that I avoid crime fiction. It’s not that I don’t like mystery- in fact, I often have mystery in my fantasy novels- it’s just that I find crime that bit too unsettling. Especially good crime fiction. I once read Minette Walters and had nightmares. I’m a wuss and yet somehow it’s like fascinating creepy crawlies, once I start a crime novel I can’t look away, because crime is fascinating. It’s frightening to think that some people have certain relationships with other people that push them to murder. I would never have come across this stunning debut if I hadn’t of already known the author. I’ve known Sarah online for a few years and her prose is perfection. I knew that this debut would be one to watch for and I wasn’t wrong. If this doesn’t hit a best seller list and/or get made into a wonderful BBC crime drama I will be very, very surprised…

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From the blurb:

Detective Inspector Marnie Rome: dependable, fierce, brilliant at her job. She’s a rising star in the ranks. Everyone knows how Marnie fought to come back from the murder of her parents, but very few know what is going on below the surface. Because Marnie has secrets she won’t share with anyone.

But then, so does everyone. Certainly those in the women’s shelter Marnie and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake visit on that fateful day. The day when they arrive to interview a resident, only to find one of the women’s husbands, who shouldn’t have been there, lying stabbed on the floor.

As Marnie and Noah investigate the crime further, the violence starts to escalate. Everyone is keeping secrets, some for survival and some, they suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin.

Now, if Marnie is going to find the truth she will have to face her own demons head on. Because the time has come for secrets to be revealed…

Someone Else’s Skin is definitely unsettling and confronting, but that doesn’t make it bad. Instead, this novel is an unflinching look at the multiple ways people bury parts of themselves deep down. In a way this theme reminded me of Dorothy Porter’s The Monkey’s Mask. DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake both see what they want to see. By the time they realize this, it is almost too late.

This is a novel about sexual, cultural and youth violence. These are themes touched on quite often in crime fiction, but Sarah has found a way to make this theme her own. She discusses these complex issues by looking at them in fresh or rare ways. Violence against women by women, violence against men by women. Violence because of race and because of culture. Violence because of a broken home and because of cycles of violence. I found this to be interesting and sensitive. I thought that Di Marnie Rome’s back story also helped to make sense of the main plot. I have read some online reviews that indicated that people found the multiple story lines confusing. I suggest that you will find the multi-story arc rewarding if you look for the ways that each story is thematically linked. It is a novel about secrets and about masks and about complicated types of violent crime. All three crimes in the novel come back to this theme.

Sarah is an award winning flash and short fiction writer, and this came across in her assured prose. Each character, including minor characters, are fleshed out deftly with a few choice lines so that they feel real. Characters react in believable ways and clues don’t feel contrived, as sometimes happens in the crime fiction genre. Finally, a note on Sarah’s depiction of minority groups. I found her handling of both Ayana and Noah Jake to be superb. These two characters leapt and sparkled. Ayana’s story may or may not be done, but I look forward to reading more of Noah’s adventures.

Someone Else’s Skin: 4/5 inky stars

A review copy was provided by the author.

This book will be available online and at bookstores.

About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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