Gary Goshgarian (aka Gary Braver) sent me an advance reading
copy of SKIN DEEP during the summer, long before it was published.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Gary Braver's work. Home alone
for a weekend, I plunged into the book the first day it was in my
possession. And I just as quickly put it down. A few chapters in
and I was terrified. Braver's novels had scared me in the past. But
this one was different.
Underlying all of Braver's thrillers is both a premise and a
question. The premise: we are impacted on a daily basis by
unavoidable, ever-present social pressures. The question: to what
degree do we allow ourselves to be impacted?
ELIXIR asks how far we are willing to go to stop the effects of
aging and at what costs. GRAY MATTER ponders what tactics parents
will take to mold their children into the next Einstein. And
FLASHBACK looks at the devastating results of rushing a drug to
market that may or may not combat the symptoms of Alzheimer's
disease. SKIN DEEP asks how far we are willing to go to change the
image we see in the mirror. But it also asks what torments are
imbedded so deeply that they can never be excised, no matter what
extreme measures we take to rid ourselves of them.
Detective Steve Markarian is trying to track down a clever
killer who is murdering beautiful women in Braver's favorite
backyard, Boston. Using flashbacks to a disturbing childhood,
Braver pulls us along through a life tormented by forbidden desire
and obsession. But whose life are we following? Markarian, likable
in his frailties, is troubled by the separation from his long-time
wife and struggling with addiction. His vulnerability leads not
only the reader to suspect his own guilt in the murders but
Markarian himself. As he watches his soon-to-be ex-wife investigate
plastic surgery and delves deeper into the deaths of women who
resemble her, Markarian uncovers that there are some evils that
mark the heart and soul forever.
What Braver knows inside and out is what scares us --- and what
fascinates us. And in SKIN DEEP he stitches the two together better
than ever before. It is by far the most psychological of all his
thrillers to date, relying more on the inner workings of the mind,
the fears that plague, the flashbacks, the self-doubts. We are
drawn in because we like Markarian, maybe even identify with his
humanity and sense of frailty, and we are terrified because he may
indeed be evil.
Picking it up to finish was like covering one’s eyes in a
scary movie but parting two fingers just enough to see what's
happening, because you're scared and fascinated at the same time.
To call SKIN DEEP an engaging medical thriller isn't enough. It's
chilling. To the bone.
Reviewed by Roberta O’Hara on January 23, 2011