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REVIEW: Someone Else’s Skin | Sarah Hilary 27 February 2014

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Book Reviews.

I knew from the first time I read one of Sarah Hilary’s flash fiction stories (“Lolita’s Lynch Mob“, back in 2007) that she’d be someone to watch. I was not surprised at all to hear that she’d got an agent and then a book deal — and I was thrilled to bits when an advance review copy of Someone Else’s Skin arrived in the mail.

book cover imageI was not disappointed. Rather, I was blown away. I knew it would be good, but it exceeded my already-high expectations; I was gripped from the first sentence, and barely glanced up from its pages right through to the last line. It’s one of the best books I’ve read, regardless of genre.

The prose is flat out gorgeous, but you don’t really slow down enough to notice it… on a first reading anyway — I appreciated the style and power of the language more fully on a second reading, once I wasn’t totally focused on finding out what would happen. There are no wasted words in this book; it’s as clean and fluid as the best sort of flash fiction, all the way through.

DI Marnie Rome is a protagonist with layers and staying power — I can well imagine that I’ll still be engaged with her and finding out new things about her through book after book. I also really connected with her partner/subordinate DS Noah Jake (and it’s refreshing to have a major character whose ethnicity and sexual orientation is a natural part of the story, without it being either a soapbox issue or tokenism). The suspects and victims are intricately detailed, as are many of the other law enforcement and social services officials — no cardboard characters here.

Someone Else’s Skin doesn’t shy away from difficult or uncomfortable subject matter; much of the story is set in a women’s shelter and deals with domestic violence in an increasingly multicultural modern London, the crimes are somewhat gruesome in nature, and the novel gets into some pretty dark and twisted places. None of it feels forced or done for effect, though; the story flows to an almost inevitable conclusion, one that had me cheering aloud. It’s also a book for intelligent readers, thankfully, and doesn’t spoon-feed information or telegraph the plot.

Bottom line, and my first thought on putting the book down after I finished reading it: I need the next book in the series, right now. It’s that good. Five stars, for sure, and a permanent place on my read-again-and-keep-forever shelf.

Thank you to Headline Books for sending me an advance review copy. Someone Else’s Skin is released in the UK today (get it HERE!) but won’t be out in North America until June. It might just be worth paying the overseas shipping so you don’t have to wait…

UPDATE (June 24, 2014): Someone Else’s Skin is now available in North America! Get it at Amazon, Amazon Canada, Chapters Indigo, Powell’s Books, or shop IndieBound.


1. Kathleen Mickelson (@kcmickelson) - 27 February 2014

I’m going to put that one on my reading list!

Camille Gooderham Campbell - 28 February 2014

We’ll have to chat once you’ve read it. So hard to write a non-spoiler review… I wanted to say so much about the other characters, but it was too hard to dance around details that are best revealed by the book itself.

2. Milo James Fowler - 5 October 2014

Writing flash consistently should tighten up our longer projects. (I hope.) Sounds like a good one.

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