Someone Else’s Skin, by Sarah Hilary, explores the frightening and messy world of domestic violence with searing aplomb. It introduces us to Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, a rising star in the ranks of the police, who is struggling to deal with her own demons. All of the characters in this book have weaknesses and flaws which come across as recognisable and real. This is a crime story where prejudices exist and mistakes are made with potentially devastating consequences. It is all the more compelling and believable because of them.
The story centres around a group of abused women who have found sanctuary at a Women’s Shelter. The police arrive to interview one of the residents, only to find the front door unlocked and a man stabbed and dying on the floor inside. Stretched to their limits by the escalating violence that this turn of events unleashes, they try to unravel what has gone before, a task muddied by the victims and witnesses inability and unwillingness to share their experiences. What is gradually exposed is a frightening world of skewed moral compasses, family secrets and damaged people.
I did not warm to Marnie Rome but was impressed with the supporting cast that the author created. The level of diversity, experience, complacency and prejudice in the police force came across well, as did the officers reactions to each other. If literary licence were taken to achieve the fast-moving and tightly woven action then it was played out by credible crime fighters.
Amongst those being investigated by the police, I did find it hard at times to remember who was who. The back stories were complex and mattered. They did not make for easy reading due to the sadistic nature of the crimes. Although exploring the impact of psychological damage, this tale contains a disturbing level of physical violence that was challenging to read. It cannot have been an easy book for the author to research.
The various emotions evoked highlight the quality and power of the writing. The violence described is in no way gratuitous with much being suggested more than dwelt upon. That this happens in the world is sickening. That it is often overlooked for the sake of community relations, respect for cultural differences or because of a simple lack of manpower to deal with the scale of the problem is depressing.
I loved the ending. Not everything is neatly wrapped up, but this is intended to be the first of a series. I am sure that I am not the only reader who will be eagerly looking forward to the next book.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.