As some of you know I had horrendous side-effects when starting back on pain medication so I’ve been in bed lots over the last few weeks (I’m feeling much better now thankfully). In rough times like these I turn to the holy trinity of music, books and film see me through (with a little bit of Mariokart thrown in too). And at this time of year there’s not much better than cosying in bed with a good book. I have quite a wide reading range: I like authors like JG Ballard, I mean come on he is stunningly good. Other favourites are Iain Banks (not so keen on his sci-fi stuff though), Shirley Jackson and Haruki Murakami. As well as this type of contemporary literature I am *very* partial to a psychological thriller; I’m a big fan of Gillian Flynn for example. So when I was asked to review the new book Beneath the Skin* by Sandra Ireland I was really excited as it’s had some great reviews. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
“Taking a job in the studio of an Edinburgh taxidermist probably isn’t Walt’s wisest decision. Suffering from combat stress and struggling to outrun the demons from his past, he now finds himself confronted by the undead on a daily basis.
His enigmatic boss, Alys, and her sister, Mouse, have their own uneasy relationship with the past. Someone doesn’t want to let them go. Can Walt save Mouse’s eight-year-old son, William, from becoming the next victim? And can he save himself?
Deliciously disturbing, this psychological thriller peels back the skin of one modern family to reveal the wounds no one wants to see. It deals with the effects of trauma and how facing up to vulnerability is sometimes the only way to let go of the past.”
There’s a lot going on in this book; it really shows just how messy and complicated human relationships can be. And not only relationships, it tackles the fragility of the human psyche. Sometimes, I think psychological thrillers can fail because they are too plot driven forgetting that at the heart of the book are characters. If a writer doesn’t give enough depth or believability to the protagonists (and antagonists) the books feels too thin, characters simply become plot devices. But thankfully this doesn’t happen in Beneath the Skin. Every main character has a believable and relatable depth to them.
Sandra Ireland has taken elements of the Gothic and deftly applied them to a contemporary familial setting in Edinburgh. The characters backgrounds and plot development brings an originality to the genre which kept me hooked throughout. I’m not the fastest of readers, I usually sneak in some reading at the end of the day when there’s a little bit of quiet in my house but I finished Beneath the Skin in a week. It’s highly readable, suspenseful, creepy, dark and thought-provoking. If you’re looking for a quintessential page-turner you won’t go wrong with Sandra Ireland’s Beneath the Skin.
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