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SkinWritten by Mo Hayder — Sergeant Flea Marley, head of Avon and Somerset’s underwater search unit, is deep beneath the surface of one of eight flooded limestone quarries, hoping to find a clue, or a body. The quarries are arranged in a horseshoe shape and number eight, the quarry that Flea is searching, nearly touches the Elf’s Grotto system of caves and passages reaching deep into the ground. This particular search is for a woman named Lucy Mahoney who disappeared two-and-a-half days ago. Flea won’t find Lucy on this day, but she will dive so deep (breaking the rules in the process) that she’ll nearly kill herself getting back to the surface. When she returns home, she finds something that will turn her life upside down.

DI Jack Caffrey, new to Bristol’s Major Crime Investigation Unit, and fresh from 20 years on London’s murder squad, is supposed to be working on the case of a missing B-list celebrity, Misty Kitson. Kitson has walked out of the rehab forced on her by cocaine addiction, and hasn’t been seen since. The entire department has been on an unprecedented search for Kitson, to no avail. Caffrey knows he should be following up on leads to her whereabouts, but he can’t stop thinking about his last case, dubbed Operation Norway.

Caffrey, along with Flea Marley, recently put an end to the reign of terror of a man claiming body parts from people (mainly drug addicted teens) to be used in a dark and twisted version of African traditional medicine called muti. However, in video recovered from the scene, there’s another figure visible that wasn’t among the arrests made. There have been whispers of a creature called the Tokoloshe, a dwarfish water sprite straight out of Zulu mythology. To Caffrey’s thinking, the likelihood of a mythical creature running around is slim, but something – or more likely, someone – is out there, and he’s determined to find out who it is. Unfortunately, he soon gets the news that the body of Lucy Mahoney has been found and the cause of death is determined to be suicide. However something seems fishy to Caffrey, and to the medical examiner. When more suicides are reported, Caffrey je has to turn up the heat on his investigation, before someone else dies.

Skin is the fourth novel in the DI Jack Caffrey series, and third in The Walking Man storyline. The Walking Man was convicted of killing the murderer and rapist of his young daughter, and in spite of a rather large bank account, chooses to live like a vagabond, wandering from place to place. Caffrey still carries the pain of the disappearance of his brother when they were children, and the guilt of not killing the man responsible. He feels a kinship with The Walking Man, who does seem to have a sixth sense as to when Caffrey needs his advice. The narrative goes back and forth between Caffrey’s hunt for the suspected killer of Lucy Mahoney and others, and Flea’s ordeal involving her developmentally challenged adult brother.

Saying more might give too much away but as you might suspect, everything is connected. There are a few passages involving the killer and his creepy collection, but Mo Hayder never digs too deeply into his motivations. Mo Hayder is the mistress of seriously creepy crime fiction, and I haven’t read one of her books that didn’t hook me immediately and keep me riveted to the very end. Skin will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and you’ll probably be checking the doors repeatedly while you read it, so be forewarned. It’s a scary, intense treat from an award-winning author.

This novel was originally published in 2009. The latest Mo Hayder book, Poppet, has just been released. Read about it here and watch for our review soon.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars


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