by Mo Hayder
One of the most intriguing literary debates of recent years asks why female crime writers are better at producing knee-trembling stories than their male counterparts. Mo Hayder is a case in point. Starting with her debut, Birdman, she has scared us silly with stories of murder, torture, sexual abuse and (in her last, Ritual) the occult. Skin pretty much picks up where Ritual left off; I should warn you there is little pretty about it. Our hero is Hayder regular DI Jack Caffery. In the last instalment he investigated a series of murders (all of women) where the victims were left to suggest suicide. Caffery was not convinced. He slowly became embroiled in a plot centring on a mysterious 'Tokoloshe Man', a spirit who seems to be practising a brutal form of African witchcraft. Central to his gory crimes was skin - hence the title of Hayder's sixth novel. While Caffery pursues the dermatological part of the plot, his sidekick and sometime other half, Phoebe Marley, looks into the doings of her naughty brother, Thom. Hayder writes with pace and no little atmosphere. Nevertheless, although your skin will crawl, your brain may wonder why her dynamic duo don't ask for some help occasionally.