Skin and Bones
Tom Bale

Preface Publishing
Trade Paperback, 320 pages, $24.95, or Hardcover, 432 pages, $34.95
Review by Sheila Merritt

The tranquility of a small English village is shattered when a gunman goes on a killing spree. The police believe he then kills himself, but one injured survivor knows better. That is the springboard for Tom Bale’s novel, Skin and Bones. It is an atmospheric tale, peopled with interesting characters. The most interesting is Julia Trent, a highly resourceful and plucky female protagonist. Julia has seen that the killer did not act alone, and did not commit suicide. He was murdered by another gunman, swathed in black. As much as Julia would like to reveal this information to the authorities, she understands that they won’t believe her, and perhaps more importantly, they don’t want to pursue an investigation when everything seems to tightly wrapped up and neatly closed.

Julia is emotionally forced into finding answers since she is aware that the remaining killer knows she is alive. She has an ally in Craig Walker, a former journalist and son of one of the slain. Together they uncover a local conspiracy which is motivated not only by greed, but by personal vendetta. The interplay between Craig and Julia is very believable, even when some of the plotting gets convoluted by the many other characters with their own agendas.

While not at all horror, in the conventional sense, there are scenes of visceral brutality that are stomach churning. This is a suspense novel with an edge to it; and the contrast between small village life and those who want to manipulate it is striking.

Tom Bale does not disappoint in keeping the interest and intrigue level high. Skin and Bones is a very good effort, with some highly memorable characters and an excellent ambience of anxiety.

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