Richard and Judy Review: Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

Richard and Judy Review: Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

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“What is the true nature of domestic abuse? Are men always the undoubted villains? Can women be guilty of violence too?”

Richard’s review

I really enjoyed this novel, not least because as a man it hits you deep in the gut. Domestic violence is an uncomfortable subject for most men. We are only too well aware that the victims are usually women, and the perpetrators are our own sex. This book is an exciting thriller, but it also deals with big issues. While keeping you on tenterhooks, the plot really makes you stop and think. And it not only surprises you, but makes you question your deeply-held assumptions.

What is the true nature of domestic abuse? Are men always the undoubted villains? Can women be guilty of violence too? And in violent family ‘honour’ scenarios, while a woman is always the victim, what part do other women play in her persecution?

Not that Someone Else’s Skin is a politically correct in-depth look at male/female issues. It’s intelligent, but it’s also a cracking good thriller, tense and unpredictable.

The heroine, DI Rome, is a complex police officer with issues and prejudices of her own. I also liked her sidekick, Detective Sergeant Noah Jake, a brilliant young cop with a gentle nature, who himself suffers from prejudice in the police force, because he is both black and gay.

Hilary also examines the sexual fetishes that can spiral out of control and take over someone’s life. In fact, she deftly takes apart human life at its darkest and most cruel. An excellent recipe for an excellent thriller.

“Much of the action takes place in a women’s shelter, which our heroine, Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, visits to interview a resident, a young woman who may be a witness to a nasty but routine crime.”

Judy’s review

Someone Else’s Skin is a very original thriller. It takes as its subject domestic abuse, both of the husband/wife variety, and the more subtle but horrifying violence in a minority of Asian families where the concept of ‘honour’ is all-consuming; and in which it’s always a woman – a wife or daughter – who is at the receiving end of deranged familial anger.

Much of the action takes place in a women’s shelter, which our heroine, Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, visits to interview a resident, a young woman who may be a witness to a nasty but routine crime. While DI Marnie is at the shelter, a man is viciously stabbed by his wife. The husband is rushed to hospital, where his life is miraculously saved. But the wife, Hope, is assumed by police to have been the intended victim, stabbing her visiting husband in self-defence. After all, Hope, like all the other women in the shelter, is only there because of her husband’s violent abuse.

DI Marnie Rome is particularly sensitive to family violence. Her own parents were brutally murdered by a young boy they fostered after their daughter left home. Devastated by their deaths, Marnie keeps in touch with their teenage killer, Stephen, now held in a Secure Youth Unit. She visits him regularly, trying to understand why he turned so viciously on the kindly couple who had shown him nothing but affection.

This crime novel is excellent at unexpected twists – time after time, Sarah Hilary completely overturns the reader’s expectations, and crucially, undermines all our received ideas about domestic violence. A really good read.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for Someone Else’s Skin

“A superbly disturbing debut.”

The Observer

“A brilliant début”

Clare Mackintosh