trishtrash's Reviews > The Skin Gods

The Skin Gods by Richard Montanari
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's review
Aug 30, 2011

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bookshelves: crime-fiction-and-mystery
Read from August 28 to 30, 2011

It amazes me how quickly some authors – Montanari included – shape up their story-telling ability between first and second-in-a-series novels. Not that there was anything overtly wrong with The Rosary Girls, but if I hadn’t already bought The Skin Gods, I might have quickly forgotten my urge to try another, and the author would have fallen by the wayside of my reading journey.

In the Skin Gods, broken but still-in-the-game Detective Kevin Byrne and his partner Jessica Balzano discover that the spliced-to-videotape murder of a young woman is just the beginning of a series of murders-by-film-homage. As Jessica follows ‘The Actor’s deliberately seeded clues and Byrne spends his enforced recuperation leave pursuing personal vendettas, the plot winds in seemingly random directions, the only straight line being from one murder to the next.

There’s something punchy, grass-roots gutsy about Montanari’s storytelling, so that even when he moves over old ground (forensic procedure, relationships between cops, the habits of the cops themselves) they feel like important parts of the storyline rather than a writer deliberately trying to inject authenticity, thus gaining authenticity and freshening well-trodden routes. It helps that the stories themselves are fresh, diverting and quite gruesome.

Two mild disappointments [spoiler warning] – for the second time, a principal character’s family is placed in danger and rescued last moment, and for the second time the motive is revenge for a cop’s actions. The details are different enough that I was still able to enjoy the story, but it did occur to me to wonder if Montanari’s plot wheel is stuck. And, finally, I still don’t know what to make of Byrne’s ‘prescient’ ability. It’s never used to solve the identity of the bad guy, but has bumped forward progress when time has been an issue, so is this deus ex machina, or a sort of sub-genre in play? It has not, so far, made me put down either story in disgust, so I guess I’ll keep going – I have the third book here, too, after all.

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