First things first, the 4th section of my interview with the good people at This Is Horror has just been posted to their website.
And in other news, This review was posted to the old TTA Press website on 28th June 2007:-
THE SKIN GODS by RICHARD MONTANARI
William Heinemann trade paperback, 395pp, £10.99
A blistering hot summer in Philadelphia, and detectives Byrne and Balzano are set on the trail of an unusual killer, one who recreates murder scenes from the movies, which he tapes and splices into videos from rental stores. Psycho and Fatal Attraction are just two of the films which he tampers with. But as they dig deeper into the case, eliminating all the obvious suspects, the detectives come to believe that there is some link, not only between the victims but with Byrne himself, who may well be the next target in the madman’s line of fire.
Montanari is being touted as a possible next big thing in thriller circles, but while this book certainly entertained me it didn’t quite convince. The author does an excellent job of bringing his characters to life; Balzano, a woman with a lot to prove, which she does by boxing as well as police work, and with a marriage in jeopardy; Byrne, recovering from a gunshot wound and thinking of giving it all up, the survivor of a broken marriage and father of a deaf and dumb girl, a man who feels deeply for the victims of crime (one of the sub-plots involves the release of a child killer he gaoled, and Byrne’s concern for the girl’s family). Montanari over eggs his pudding though, giving Byrne a psychic gift, an ability to sometimes tune in to past events, feelings etc, which doesn’t add anything at all to the plot, is a needless contrivance that undercuts the verisimilitude of the whole enterprise.
And verisimilitude is the crux here. Novel as the killer’s modus operandi is, with a plot that takes numerous twists and turns, all to good effect, there is no getting past the fact that there isn’t really any need for him to act as he does, and the impression left in the mind is of a writer desperately casting round for yet another change to ring on the serial killer trope, with the narrative mired in Hollywood hand me downs and eventually disappearing up the fundament of its own pretension. Worst of all, the killer when caught, is somebody completely out of left field, a very minor character, with little or no foreshadowing of his identity, and so this book, with all its insights into police work and the human craving for the sensational, entertains but doesn’t provide enough substance to still the nagging doubts as to whether it could ever have taken place.