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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shifting Skin. Chris Simms. Orion Books (2006)


A very engaging and sharply written police procedural. Partially skinned bodies have been dumped around the Belle Vue area and Detective Inspector Jon Spicer is struggling to get a grip on the case. At the same time a battered woman felling from her home is sure she has heard a murder at the hotel she was sheltering at. She only has a card from an escort agency as proof and embarks on her own investigation when the police do not. Jon Spicer is assigned a new partner and together they start to find a trail to follow, unlicensed cosmetic surgery. The two investigations slowly start to draw together and overlap in a very satisfactory and effective climax.
Chris Simms has written a very well constructed crime story that stages it reveals with care and at the same time allows its cast to breathe and develop and deal with some very interesting issues. Rick Saville, Jon Spicers' new partner is gay and Chris Simms handles the story thread this leads to very nicely. Jon Spicer is a very macho character, it is not Rick's sexual orientation that bother him, it is his competence as a police officer. Once that is established the matter of his being gay is still relevant but minor. This allows Rick emerge as a rounded character rather than a token.
Fiona, the battered wife, slowly emerges as character, her investigation is as much as assertion of her control over her own life, long absent, as anything else. The way the threads of the story are drawn together and the horribly plausible well of hate and bile that lie behind the murders is expertly revealed. A gripping and very enjoyable story.

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