Book review: Skin Deep

Skin Deep

📚 Skin Deep
by Antonia Lassa
Translated by Jacky Collins
Llevar en la piel
was first published in Spanish in 2023
by Corylus Books
136 pages
Epub received from the publisher for review
– book tour

Basque author Luisa Etxenike, aka Antonia Lassa, has published more than ten novels, short story collections, plays and a poetry collection, and won literary awards.
She has also contributed for many years to weekly columns on culture and politics in
El País and El Mundo.
She is fluent in Spanish, French, and English and has herself translated several books from the French.

However, this is the first time one of her books has been translated into English, thanks to translator Jacky Collins and the indie press Corylus.
Skin Deep is an engrossing novel, with a large part given to the senses, not surprising if you keep in mind that Antonia Lassa is also a professional enologist.

Talking about the senses, if you are very sensitive, you are going to hurt more. Inspector Canonne has his mind not on delicious wine as we open the book, but on his teeth! His dental implants didn’t work, and now it looks like there is only this huge hole between his teeth, and it hurts a lot.
The stabbing pain keeps coming back to his mind, making it hard to focus on his latest case. Besides, he also has heart pain, as his wife Laure has just left him.

So the Inspector was in a foul mood when Deputy Inspector Frier, who had no dental problems and presumably no relationship troubles either, came into his office and informed him of the discovery.

What they have discovered is the “badly marked” body of an elderly woman. A body covered with “bizarre burn marks”.

I liked the humor and at the same time deeper reflections inserted on a regular basis, as Canonne keeps getting back to his toothache, in the middle of his investigation, like here for instance:

He searched around in his mouth for the stitches. He hadn’t been bothered about going bald, or seeing lines appear on his face, but this tooth thing he just couldn’t stand. Because the hole in his mouth seemed like an entrance door; and he could see himself on the threshold of old age, just like he was now stood before the corpse of the disfigured old woman.

The victim turns out to be a very wealthy Parisian, but she was found in a shabby seaside apartment in Biarritz. What was she doing there?

The marks on her body look like art, and as Canonne discovers the old lady had a young musician as her lover, he is sure this Émile is the artistic assassin, and he arrests him.
His lawyer Larten, a private detective and wine critic, is working hard to figure out what happened.

I enjoyed the passages about art, about Émile’s creation with the sounds of the sea. His personality fits beautifully: he is so immersed in his world of art that even a stay in jail doesn’t ruffle him easily.
And the deeper reflection on skin and senses are fascinating as well, always inviting you to go deeper than what you can see from the exterior, in people’s looks and behaviors.

And perhaps, he told himself, what we call intuition is precisely that. An invisible skin that surrounds us, covered with such extraordinary sensitive sensors, that it perceives danger before we do”
Chapter 5

I partially guessed early on what was happening, but the richness of the book resides mostly in its mix of unique and eccentric characters, to say the least. On a general basis, this is not the type of characters I enjoy in books, but I guess it worked here, in the world of art and wealthy people.
This is an unusual thriller, in the sense that it tries to go deeper than the exterior skin of things and people. A level where all our senses and personality, however ‘other’ we may be, are involved.

I didn’t read it in the original Spanish, but the translation sounds scar-less. There’s a real flow to it and it felt I was reading an original work.

If you enjoy reading unusual mysteries with quirky characters, this is definitely for you.

VERDICT: A refreshing addition to the mystery genre, with unusual and eccentric characters. A welcoming invitation always to look deeper.

rating systemrating systemrating systemrating system

Have you read any other very unusual thriller?


Antonia Lassa

Antonia Lassa – author
Born in Paris, Antonia Lassa is an enologist who works as a consultant for different private wineries around the world. This passion for wine has been instilled in her singular detective Albert Larten, for whom each new investigation is like a meticulous tasting. Wine is savoured through the eyes, the nose and the mouth, just like the crimes found in Skin Deep, with readers being invited to get involved with their five senses.
Antonia Lassa is the pseudonym of Luisa Etxenike.

Dr-Jacky-CollinsJacky Collins – translator
Dr. Jacky Collins, lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Stirling University, is the Festival Director for Newcastle Noir. As ‘Dr Noir’ she regularly interviews a range of internationally acclaimed and emerging crime fiction authors at national and international events.
Her series of author ‘consultations’ on the Newcastle Noir YouTube channel – The Doctor Will See You Now – is where lovers of everything crime fiction can catch up on news about latest publications.

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook for free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.


14 thoughts on “Book review: Skin Deep

  1. Pingback: 2023: May wrap-up | Words And Peace

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