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Second Skin is a chilling piece of Florida noir
October 21, 2015
Second Skin By Michael Wiley Pub Date: November 1, 2015
An intriguing mystery featuring homicide detective Daniel Turner in the second of this atmospheric crime noir series, following Blue Avenue.
When one of her students is found dead, English teacher Lillian Turner and her husband, Navy war veteran Johnny Wester, are drawn into the investigation. Having made a macabre discovery which throws a disturbing new light on the case, Johnny and Lillian find themselves involved in something darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined.
With their marriage cracking under the strain and Johnny’s sanity under threat, the pair is warned to stay out of the case by Lillian’s brother, homicide detective Daniel Turner. Just what is Daniel’s connection to the dead girl? Does he know more than he’s letting on? Can Lillian trust her own brother?
To say Second Skin is a powerful, thought-provoking novel is an understatement. It is a novel that leaves the reader raw and trembling, utterly aware of the depths of evil man is capable of. It is a personal tale, told from the perspectives of the various individuals involved. It is complex and messy in the way that life is messy.
Second Skin is a mystery, but it is not a whodunit. From the very beginning it is clear where guilt lies, even if you don't know the specific individual who performed the act. Good is in shades of grey. Johnny is a vet, broken by his time in the military, struggling to find his place. Lillian, his wife, is a teacher with a love of literature. When one of her students goes missing, she asks Johnny to try to find her. The next day, her body is found, and the police and family claim it's suicide. To appease Lillian and his conscience, Johnny goes to the scene and discovers evidence that Shaneel was murdered. His quest for answers puts him in the path of the wealthy and powerful Phelps family.
The Phelps family is chilling, because their wealth puts them above the law, able to buy their way out of any situation. When someone won't be bought or threatened, it is easy enough to pay someone else to get rid of the problem. Ordinary individuals are nothing to people like the Phelps family. Stephen Phelps, the family scion, is particularly disturbing. He is a rapist who feels entitled to whoever and whatever he wants, even the daughter he sired when raping his cousin as a teenager. Repeatedly he tells himself his actions aren't his fault. He has no conscience, readily abusing his wife and others. His father is no better.
As I read, i was so angry and felt so powerless. The Phelps family is fictional, but they reflect a truth that is ugly and frequently ignored.
Second Skin is a superb novel, dark and disturbing, but lyrical. Its effects will long be felt by the reader.
Second Skin is available for preorder and will be released November 1, 2015.
I received a copy of Second Skin from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.