Tim's Reviews > Skin Trade

Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin
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bookshelves: fantasy, français, own, press, translated-books, reviewed

George R.R. Martin may be famous for his televised series A Song of Ice and Fire, but before that, he was and still is active on other literary fronts, like horror. My first encounter with the horror-version of Mr Martin was De Fevre Dream (the Dutch translation of 'Fevre Dream', which I reviewed in Dutch here). I liked this trip into the past very much.

One of his other horror-works is 'The Skin Trade', originally published in 1988. It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella (1989). The story got translated in the past few years, also in France. Éditions ActuSF first published it in 2012. Seven years later, an augmented edition sees the light of day. There is still a foreword and biography by Emmanuel Chastellière, whose Célestopol / Célestopol (yes, both editions, as the latter was very lightly revised) is on my TBR-pile. The rest of this new edition of 'Skin Trade' contains a large extract of Nightflyers et autres récits.

Sandwiched between the foreword and the biography/extract part is the real story. Two main characters, Willie Flambeaux (a debt-recovery agent) and Randi Wade (private detective, her father was in the local police force), investigate suspicious murders: people skinned alive. Randi and Willie have their own ways of approaching the matter. Willie, not being totally honest with Randi, is far from sporty, even has asthma and is very dependent on his Ventolin (inhaler), but as an agent, he can be very convincing and cunning. Randi will trespass when needed and possible, even go farther than her father's former colleagues, like a certain Joe Urquhart, her father's former partner.

Speaking of her father: He (and Joe) was charged at some time to investigate the massive killings of children. However, they couldn't solve the case, as Randi's father got killed by "some kind of wild animal". This mystery has since then always haunted Randi's mind and she will continue to use this to get more information, even for her current case.

The current case involves people Willie knew and was acquainted with.

Mr Martin didn't show many cards, but offered only bits and pieces to keep everyone in suspense. Why are these people assassinated? Is there a motif? Are there any suspects? Witnesses? Who's behind this? One man? A group? Were there such or similar cases in the past? A pattern? And so on, and so forth.

As Willie and Randi fight their way onwards to discover the secret, it's a bit like a video game, as another reader wrote. At the end, they have to confront and fight the end boss. However, it's not as simple as that. There is more to it, much more. The town is infested, so to speak. Werewolves play a role ((view spoiler)), as the depiction on the cover clearly indicates. (view spoiler). Willie only reveals his personal secret ((view spoiler)) when he has no other choice, but his silence long put a damper on their (his and Randi's) mutual understanding and friendship. And they need each other very much, as they complement one another.

This tale of stripping one's victims of their skins reminded me a bit of La Trilogie de Wielstadt by Pierre Pevel. If my memory doesn't fool me, the third book (Le chevalier de Wielstadt) involves a character who acts in a similar way.

'Skin Trade' is a very entertaining story, recommended as an in-between for fans of horror and/or urban fantasy. The book reads like a page-turner, thanks to Martin's skilful writing (and the translation by Annaïg Houesnard, since I read the French edition). There are no chapters, which is a way of making you (want to) read on and discover, through the alternating POVs of Willie and Randi, what happens.

This story was to be the first in a series with Willie and Randi at the helm, but time and circumstances decided differently. On the other hand, it would have been nice to see a few more become reality, and so offer more insight and information on the world and on both main characters in the first place. But it is what it is, and it's good and that's all that matters.


I was sent this book by Éditions ActuSF for review. Many thanks to them for the trust.
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Reading Progress

November 29, 2019 – Shelved
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: français
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: own
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: press
November 29, 2019 – Shelved as: translated-books
December 5, 2019 – Started Reading
December 7, 2019 –
page 99
39.92% "This new, French edition contains a foreword, a biography of Mr Martin, and an extensive preview of his other work, Nightflyers. Skin Trade itself ends at page 183."
December 8, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed
December 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

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