Even though I flew through the pages, Sarah Hilary‘s incredibly assured debut, Someone Else’s Skin is a difficult read. Not because it’s not well written (the language and style is quite beautiful and unique, and I put this down to Sarah’s skills as a short story writer, her ability to tell a story using the perfect words in a shorter medium) but because the subject matter – domestic violence – is a difficult one to let into your head.
Hilary has stayed away from graphic violence for the most part leaving it to the reader’s imagination, but many of the scenarios are ones which will stick in your head for a long time after you’ve stopped reading. Each of the main female characters, Ayana, Hope and Simone have experienced very different and all very shocking events – leading them to end up in a womens’ refuge.
It’s the refuge that kicks things off in this story, when a male intruder is stabbed and left for dead – leaving DI Marnie Rome, DS Noah Jake and victim support worker, Ed Belloc to work out what’s gone on. Rome has issues of her own to deal with, having arrived home 5 years earlier to find both of her parents murdered. Her own demon is guilt – for rebelling against them and for not being there to save them – and she addresses this in unconventional ways.
Although a police procedural in the usual sense, this novel is much more of a character piece, highlighting the far reaching effects of domestic violence, and the way that the most seemingly obvious things are not always cut and dried. Each of the characters has something to offer – even Rome’s boss with his recovery from illness, that makes you flip back the pages to see the point where it started. It’s this attention to detail that makes this book stand out.
The ending works perfectly, tying up most of the loose ends, but leaving just enough strands for the sequel; and I’m very much looking forward to reading about what Rome et al will be investigating next.
Oh, and I’d like to offer the author an award: ‘Most innovative use of a kettlebell in crime fiction’ 😉
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