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Chris High reviews 'The Skin Gods' on


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Chris High reviews a Richard Montanari crime fiction novel


Richard Montanari

Publisher: William-Heinemann
ISBN: 0-434-01394-4
August 3rd, 2006

Front cover of the book by Richard Montanari: The Skin Gods

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After the dazzling success of the gritty America police thriller, The Rosary Girls, Philadelphia author Richard Montanari might have been excused for not quite hitting the same heights. However, there are no excuses necessary. The Skin Gods exceeds even the high expectations created by The Rosary Girls and does so in spades. Written in a manner that insists the pages are turned in a fury, The Skin Gods is as an engrossing and tension filled a read fans of crime on dark side should cling to and embrace for all its worth


The streets of Philadelphia are blistering in the summer heat, the homicide rate is soaring and the nights belong to the mad. Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are prowling with a growing sense of unease. When a series of seemingly unrelated crimes shatter the restless silence of the city, their worst fears are confirmed. A beautiful secretary is slashed to death in a grimy motel shower and a street hustler is brutally murdered with a chainsaw. Piece by piece, a strange and sickening puzzle presents itself: someone is meticulously recreating Hollywood's most well-known and horrifying murder scenes, capturing them on film and inserting the clips into videos - for an unsuspecting public to find. While Kevin Byrne begins furtive investigations of his own, Jessica Balzano goes undercover to work the steaming back alleys of Philadelphia, entering a violent world of underground film, pornography and seedy nightclubs, hidden to all but the initiated. Discovering that none of The Actor's victims are as innocent as they appear to be, the two detectives arrive at a terrifying reality: they are not just chasing a homicide suspect. They are stalking evil itself.

Often disturbing in its attention to detail, Richard Montanari has created two protagonists in the shape of Byrne and Balzano who should be cherished, whereas his antagonists – none of whom should ever see the light of day in the real world – are terrifying and believable in every possible way.

Philadelphia is not a city usually taken to be sinister. Here, however and in the hands of Mister Montanari, every corner, every building, every room take on shadows that can only be cast by the most masterly of story-tellers and so imbues the novel with a darkness that lingers well after the tale has been told.

The word “classic” is often over used. In the case of Richard Montanari’s second outing for Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, the word “classic” does not do The Skin Gods justice.

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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
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