Monday, May 31, 2010

"Skin" by Mo Hayder

Picking up almost where "Ritual" left off, Detective Jack Caffery's latest case involves a woman found near railway tracks, which looks like a suicide. Police diver Flea Marley's latest case involves a skinned dog brought up from the depths. As it turns out, the dog was the woman's pet. Is there more to the woman's death than initially thought? Both appear to lose interest, however. Jack is convinced that he is still being stalked by the Tokolosh, a myth-based creature that featured in "Ritual". As for Flea, she finds the dead body of footballer girlfriend Misty Kitson in the trunk of her car, realising she was the victim of a hit-and-run when her irresponsible brother borrowed her car. Now she's preoccupied with disposing of the body and saving her brother's skin, even though he's resolutely ungrateful for it, conspiring with his girlfriend to make it look like Flea was the driver who killed Misty.

"Skin" is awful. Like so many crime thrillers these days, this one crams three disparate storylines into its narrative. So instead of one decent plot, we get three mediocre ones. This book abandons the plot of the dead woman and dead dog so that Jack can investigate the Tokolosh (leading to one admittedly very creepy sequence), only for him to promptly abandon that investigation to go back and probe into the woman's death. Meanwhile, Flea's adventures in trying to get rid of Misty's body doesn't have much to do with anything. Attempts to tie everything together at the end are underwhelming and contrived, to say the least.

It's sad to see an author who could release a genuinely frightening thriller like "The Treatment" put out something as disjointed and unexciting as this. She tries to have it both ways as well - we're expected to have read and to remember everything that happened in "Ritual", since so much in this book is linked to what happened in the previous one. Yet she never reveals the name of the killer in that book! So if you happen to read this one first and can't understand what's going on, you're expected to go back and read the previous one. Very cheap tactic. I'd say neither are worth forking out your cash for, anyway. "Gone", the next Jack Caffery thriller, is already out, but I've got serious reservations. Perhaps if someone lets me know that Flea Marley is nowhere to be found I might give it a go.

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