Book Review: Skin Deep by Gary Kemble

Part haunting, part political-thriller, Skin Deep is a fast-paced, gritty, and sometimes bloody story of vengeaskin deepnce.


Harry Hendrick is a reporter for a local Brisbane newspaper. His girlfriend has recently left him, he’s been in the same job way too long, he’s feeling lost and a little sorry for himself when his life begins to spiral out of control. He begins waking up with tattoos, and with no memory of how he got them. With the tattoos come the nightmares and memories of another man, a former SAS officer, who Harry suspects is dead. As Harry searches for answers, he is led into a dangerous world of corruption and violence that reaches all the way to the highest levels of Australian politics.
The thing about this book is how real it feels. It’s set for the most part in Brisbane, and it’s a Brisbane I know. The writing captures the smells of vegetation and humidity, steep hills and views of the city, the river, old Queenslanders and the yuppification of the suburbs. The characters, too, are finely drawn and recognisable. Their voices for the most part ring true. They remind me of people I’ve met.
So when it all gets twisted – and it does get twisted – the realism works to draw you into the strangeness of the story.
I like this book a lot. The concept it’s built on is bold, and the construction of the story is unwavering. The narrative weaves realistic portrayals of places and events, documented in a way that reflects the journalistic background of the author, Gary Kemble, with a twisted, supernatural, conspiracy tale that reaches from Afghanistan to Christmas Island, to the bikie gangs and tattoo parlours of Brisbane.
A great and memorable read, though not for the squeamish.

(Review also published on Goodreads – I gave it 4 stars.)

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