Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
Publisher: Penguin Ireland
Publishing Date: 5th April 2018
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 368
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
The sinister new novel from the No 1 bestselling author of Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait.
‘Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.’
Delphine Hamilton is a fake. She has been living on the Côte d’Azur for ten years, posing as an English heiress. However, her alimony is running out, her looks are fading, and her wealthy lovers are fewer and further between.
Down to her last euros, and desperate to get out of her apartment, Delphine decides to spend the day at the Negresco where she is caught stealing another guest’s meal. He takes pity on her and invites her to a party.
The guests are young and beautiful and Delphine feels her age, and is achingly conscious of her worn out dress. But after a few lines of cocaine and multiple cocktails, she is oblivious to everything.
Hours later, as dawn is breaking, she wakes up on the floor of a deserted hotel penthouse. She makes her way home through the back streets.
Even before she opens the door she can hear the flies buzzing and she realizes that the corpse in her bedroom has already begun to decompose …
Liz Nugent’s new novel is the dark, twisted and shocking story of what takes Delphine from an island childhood in Ireland to ruination in a grotty flat in Nice.
I’ve never read anything by Liz Nugent before and the premise to “Skin Deep” was brilliantly dark and intriguing, and I didn’t hesitate long before hitting “request” button. And this book started marvellously. It had me glued to the pages and the more I was reading the more I couldn’t believe what I’m seeing and with what a manipulative character we’re dealing with. Then the second part came and it was as if I’ve just started reading a different novel. Totally different in tone, felt too flat, somehow weird and I wasn’t sure what about.
It started with a murder, which is really not a spoiler, as it literally happens on the first pages. Then it quickly takes us back in the past and we get to know Delia’s background and history, and so I was guessing it’s taking us slowly to the act of the murder itself. But guys, it was mentioned again only on the last few pages. So the whole drama just simply disappeared, it didn’t feel in any way important and significant, it was something that happened and so what? It didn’t make me sad, or teary, it was then immediately explained who the victim is (though I’ve almost immediately guessed it) – as it wasn’t ever mentioned through the whole story, which is understandable, you just haven’t thought about it, so there was no tension and no questioning yourself who and why. It was really confusing and I’m still not sure what to do with it.
Liz Nugent has, of course, excelled here in the character’s portrayal and its development. She has created a manipulative and self – absorbed Delia that you just can’t warm to throughout the whole story, but I guess it was intended. I’ve never felt sympathy nor empathy to Delia and yes, I do understand where she was coming from, what with her dotting father all the time telling her she’s “The Queen” and that she’s gorgeous, and I mean when you hear it all the time as a child you’re prone to believe it, but then you grow up and heck, you start to think for yourself, right? And Delia O’Flaherty didn’t. Using and abusing people only because of the fact that you’re beautiful? Delia was like a reverse Midas – whatever she’s touched turned not into gold but into tragedy and drama. She was destructive and her actions were awful.
Delia was of course not the only character in the book but she has dominated the whole story. The other characters were more or less likeable but almost all of them fell quickly under her spell.
Altogether, “Skin Deep” was a bleak, disturbing read but I’m really glad I’ve read it. It was a read with a difference, and Liz Nugent’s writing style is vivid and addictive. This powerful read pushing the boundaries, evoked many dark emotions in me, as it itself was a dark, sinister tale.