Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/
Judith has been reading Under Your Skin by Rose McCelland
I wasn’t sure how to review this book. On the whole I liked Rose McClelland’s writing style, but I couldn’t decide what genre Under Your Skin is. This doesn’t bother me normally, many books cross genres but, for me, there were some elements that didn’t feel quite right in this story about one of the most destructive and distressing traits in any relationship. And, so, for the first time, before I wrote this, I checked to see what other reviewers thought.
Under Your Skin has been well received; most of the comments have concentrated on how well the issue of domestic violence is at the forefront of the story; it’s the main theme. And I agree, how a person can gain control over another in a carefully planned and invidious way is excellently written through the characters of Kyle and Hannah. With both the internal and spoken dialogue the reader learns how the husband thinks and acts. I admired the author’s in-depth approach to that.
Kyle Greer, the antagonist, is multi-layered. Told in the third person point of view the narrator initially depicts him as a pleasant easy-going man, concerned about his missing wife. But slowly a different personality emerges. The underlying sinister side to Kyle becomes more obvious, his actions more violent. The author has written a good portrayal of a husband who controls, who is an abuser, a cruel manipulator.
The same careful representation has been given to his wife, Hannah. This character is written in first person point of view. At first, the reader is led to believe that she has been kidnapped. She says, “Even if I tried to batter on the tiny window… no one would hear”. To begin with, because of the dialogue, I believed her to an unreliable narrator, ostensibly because of her fear, depression and mental instability. But as the story progresses, and she reveals how she has become a victim of Kyle’s bullying, I understood why she was characterised in that way. The stages of the relationship between them are shown in past tense, through flashbacks: from the time when she first met him to the present time and to the present situation. Each memory exposes her degradation brought on by Kyle’s jealousy, possessiveness and moods; her ability to excuse his behaviour, to turn off her emotions in an attempt to save her sanity. And too proud to admit she’d made a mistake marrying him. It made difficult reading and I empathised with her.
But, for me, the other characters vary, some being more rounded, even though they all occupy equal importance in the book and I felt those characters detracted from the strong theme that occupies the central story.
I found the portrayed relationship between Kerry Lawlor and DCI Simon Peters unrealistic and unnecessary. The inferred, lightly romantic, attraction between them, especially on the part of Kerry Lawlor, felt forced and it all sort of petered out in the end, anyway. A straightforward colleagues’ relationship would have been enough for me. Though I admit I enjoyed the twists and turn in the police investigations, from the searching for her as a missing person to the suspicions about Hanna’s husband Kyle
The representation of Kate and her husband, Guy is shown through her point of view and the relationship between them, showing all the difficulties of a working wife and a stay at home writer husband is okay, though I did wonder how they fitted in and when that was shown towards the end I felt a little sceptical that this was realistic, (perhaps this was because of the first chapter with Hannah and the dialogue there )– I’m not sure.
The story line between Julia and Kyle is stronger. I thought it was included to show how easily a certain type of woman can be taken in by a certain type of man. But she plays a more important part than that. Yet I also felt there was little depth to her character, considering what she apparently has been through and is still struggling with; her portrayal and her actions didn’t ring true.
And though, overall, the dialogue quite clearly differentiates the characters, I have to say that, occasionally, the speech attributed to some didn’t give them any depth, and even detracted from how they were portrayed. And, more than that, there were dialogue tags that clashed with the actual dialogue; an example being, “piped up” when the dialogue showed quite a different mood than “piped up” represented. This happened in quite a lot in places and I found it irritating. I’m a great believer that dialogue should show the emotion, the way it is spoken, and that ”said” is enough most of the time.
The story is set in Belfast and, through some of the descriptions, there was a good sense of place.
Despite my latterly reservation I think it is a good plot, covering an important issue; and is a theme sensitively written by Rose McClelland.
Loved the cover by the way.
All reviews are subjective; mine is no different, so I think I should leave it to other readers to decide if Under Your Skin is for them. As I said at the beginning it’s a book that has been well received and admired.
When Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret.
Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues.
Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police ever could. Julia was only trying to help but has she become drawn into a web of mystery that she can’t escape?