I first discovered Tom Bale through Bookouture, one of my favourite digital publishers, and I absolutely loved See How They Run and All Fall Down, so it was with excitement and a little bit of trepidation that I downloaded Skin and Bones, Tom’s first novel (and now ten years old) when it was on offer recently.
The novel begins in a sleepy Sussex village. Julia Trent is back to clean out her parent’s house after they died suddenly, but her intended visit does not go according to plan when a gunman goes on the rampage, killing several residents of the village.
Julia is caught up in the bloodshed when she is chased down by the gunman. Hiding in a tree, she is astounded and terrified when she sees a second gunman appear. It is this second gunman who discovers Julia’s hiding place and shoots her. Badly injured, Julia’s recollection of the events is discounted by the police who follow the firm belief she is traumatised and only one gunman was involved in the massacre.
Julia joins forces with Craig Walker whose father was killed in the massacre, and together they find themselves embroiled in something far more sinister and deep rooted than either of them had envisaged in their worst nightmares.
The pacing at the beginning of the novel is very fast, and your heart is pounding along with Julia’s as she tries to escape certain death if she is caught, but I did feel it slowed down after maybe 25% or so. That said, the last half of the novel keeps you going – and keeps you guessing!
Skin and Bones is not an easy read. It is a complicated novel, interwoven with many threads, and you have to pay attention to follow it otherwise you will find yourself losing track. Therefore, my advice would be to read this when you have the time to devote the attention required.
There are also a lot of different points of view in the book (I think I counted nine), which adds to the complexity. I’m not sure every one of them was required and I think the author could have found a different way to get their point across, but having said that, it was interesting to see inside so many different heads, and having so many POV’s certainly helped to keep the identity of the second killer hidden until towards the end of the novel.
Skin and Bones has all the hallmarks of a Tom Bale novel – intriguing, complex and intricate. However, there were elements that I felt could have been cut without destroying the story and it would have perhaps helped with the pacing. Without doubt, Tom’s storytelling has improved, becoming tighter as he has progressed through his writing career. That’s not to say Skin and Bones isn’t good. It is. It’s very good, and I did enjoy it immensely.
I would give the novel four stars, but if the pacing in second quarter had been faster, this would, without doubt, have been a five star read.