Skin and Bones

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Skin and Bones By Tom BaleA glance to her left was all it took. If she had kept her eyes straight ahead, or looked to the right instead, she might never have become involved. She might have been spared…

There was a dead man in the street.

On a cold January morning in a small Sussex village, a man goes on a killing spree, shooting anyone in his path, as well as entering houses and buildings shooting anyone he happens to come across before eventually taking his own life, or at least that’s what everyone thinks.

Julia Trent however, knows otherwise. Having survived despite being shot at and badly injured, she knows there was a second man involved. A second man who fled the scene. The police ignore her account of the massacre, believing her to be delusional and that her memory of the events are hazy following her ordeal. Everyone thinks it was a senseless, tragic event ending with the killer taking his own life on the village green.

Julia knows different and is determined to find out the truth to prove there is another killer. As she begins searching for answers, it doesn’t take long before she discovers the slaughter did not begin on that January morning. And worst of all, it won’t end there…

Right from the first page I was quickly drawn into this debut thriller by Tom Bale. The story begins on that January morning where a man goes on the rampage. Shooting and leaving for dead, the inhabitants of a quiet village. Julia Trent’s parents lived in the village and have recently died. Julia is making a visit to her late parents home to begin the hard task of sorting through their possessions when she realises something is amiss and eventually encounters the gunman. The suspense is there right from the start as the first few chapters relay the tragic events as they unfold in the village.

Whilst Julia is recovering from her injuries, she is sought out by Craig Walker, journalist son of one of the victims. Although she is unsure of him at first, the pair begin to try and make sense of what happened. With the police discounting her tale of two killers, there is only Craig she can turn to for help as she vows to prove that another man was involved and is still at large. What follows is a thriller full of suspense that I found difficult to put down. After the initial few chapters covering the tragic events in the village, the pace of the story obviously slows down, but this doesn’t make for less interesting reading as the suspense is maintained. The other killer is still out there somewhere and you just know you haven’t seen the last of him.

I found myself wondering why the killer would be alarmed when discovering that Julia had survived the shooting, as the police did not believe her and were satisfied the killer had taken his own life. This of course makes for the remainder of the story as the killer has some unfinished business and Julia realises she is not out of danger just yet.

The main characters of the story are Julia and Craig. Drawn together by their quest for the truth and having both lost parents who resided in the village, they are both strong characters well developed by Bale, who indeed gets full marks from me for all the characters in this book. From self-made millionaire property developer George Matheson who lives in his manor house in the village with his dying wife Vanessa, to some shady characters he is doing business with, Bale does not go overboard on lengthy pointless character descriptions. Instead he provides just the right amount of information necessary to interest the reader and a few little hints to keep you guessing that all is not what it seems.

Does George Matheson stand to gain from the massacre in the village or has it made life more complicated than it already is for him?

“Right up until the end of the book the suspense remains and I was happy in the knowledge I had not predicted how it would all turn out.”

The characters were also very believable, the only time I got a little irritated was with the character of Julia. Recovering from her wounds it seems that one minute she is struggling to walk along the road to a cafe and the next thing you know she is climbing over fences giving chase to someone! I did find that a little difficult to comprehend, but it was the only time I felt this way during the entire book so really it is only a minor niggle. Craig has a few personal problems to deal with as well as coping with the death of his father. He has two young children and has discovered his wife has been having an affair. As he used to have a drink problem, he finds all this added stress is tempting him back to the bottle. All this adds to the tension his character experiences and he finds himself drawn to Julia, though there is no time in this fast-paced thriller for romance!

I did think about two thirds of the way into the book that the ending was beginning to take shape. Or so I thought. In fact there were a couple of twists, one of which I did not see coming at all which is a clever move by Bale. Right up until the end of the book the suspense remains and I was happy in the knowledge I had not predicted how it would all turn out. Just how I like a good thriller to be!

Tom Bale was born in Sussex and as the story is set there, his knowledge of the area is apparent but he doesn’t dwell on it. He has a knack for knowing just how much time to spend on detail, descriptions etc and ensures the suspense is always there, keeping the reader engaged in this thrilling read.

If you like a good thriller, then I can highly recommend this book. Bale’s writing flows perfectly from start to finish and it was very hard to put down.

Paperback: 448 pages, Publisher: Preface Publishing (4 Feb 2010)

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Skin and Bones
by Tom Bale

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