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Cleanskin (Quick Reads) by Val McDermid
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Cleanskin (Quick Reads) (2006)

by Val McDermid

Series: Quick Reads

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Good writing and plotline, but ultimately the ending seemed rushed and almost as if a sequence was missing or it was cut-down from a longer story. ( )
  edwardsgt | Apr 21, 2012 |
Though this was my first time reading Val McDermid, I was already a fan. Her books are the basis of a great British crime drama, Wire in the Blood, and as soon as I discovered that all of her books found a spot on my wishlist. This was just a novella, but I think it’s a good taste of what McDermid can do. The story opens at the scene of the brutal murder of Katie Farrell, who has been burned to death in her own bedroom. Katie is the daughter of Jack Farrell, an organized crime boss that DCI Andy Martin refers to as a 'cleanskin', meaning he has no criminal record. The story follows Andy as he tries to figure out who would dare to kill Jack Farrell’s daughter. I found the writing to be tight and the suspense level appropriate. Though there were some plot twists that weren’t exactly unexpected, the final outcome was not something I would have guessed. I can’t wait to read something more fleshed out and developed from McDermid. ( )
  miyurose | Jun 24, 2010 |
Cleanskin is written in 2006 as part of the Quick Reads program - short books from popular authors published in an attempt to get the non-reading part of the population in UK to read. I am not quite sure if the goal was achieved (never really checked) but the program created some very nice novellas such as this one.

The whole book is 128 pages but the text is down to 113 or thereabouts, with short chapters, big font and a lot of free space. It is a novella although I am not sure if it is not closer to a long novelette in size than to a short novella. But that's not really important. Because the book works.

A nine-year-old girl dies in a house fire. Her father - Jack Farrell - is one of the criminal bosses in town. And because of this, the DCI that get called to the scene is the resident expert in all things Farrell: Andy Martin. Except that Andy has no idea what happens - not only with the fire but he is left totally amazed of what follows. While the police race in an attempt to find out who killed a child in cold blood, a series of corpses start to appear - some expected, some being a total surprise. And all of them had died gruesome deaths. And in the middle of this nightmare, Andy needs to find some time to deal with his own private life.

The truth is as unexpected as one can come but it never sounds unbelievable or staged; we get the same blow that Andy gets. And McDermid goes on to dig the knife deeper, to remove any hope from the situation and to mark even the honest men with the sign of dishonesty. Because the world cannot be a good place if a child can die.

A couple of warnings here:
- the description on the back cover gives out what happens in the middle of the book... if it was a novel, an action on page 50-60 or thereabouts can be revealed but for a novella, it just shouldn't have been.
- if you cannot read about gruesome murders, you better skip it. The descriptions of all murders are there and even if they are somewhat toned down, the details are in the text.

4 stars out of 5 for the novella (and the missing star is for the oversimplifying of some things... especially in the latest chapters. At least McDermid manages to finish it satisfactorily if a bit rushed - Ian Rankin's novella in the same program almost falls flat at the end). ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | Jan 5, 2010 |
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When a child dies, everybody hurts – family, friends and strangers alike.
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We'd been after Jack Farrell for years, but we'd never been able to lay a finger on him. He was still what we call a cleanskin – somebody who had no criminal record, meaning he had all the rights and freedoms available to decent citizens. But I knew the truth. And I wanted Jack Farrell so bad I could taste it. (Chapter One)
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Jack Farlowe is a career criminal, but one who has never been convicted of any offence. When his daughter dies in an arson attack, he is broken-hearted. His drowned body is washed up on a Suffolk beach, and everyone believes he has killed himself in grief. But then, one by one, Jack Farlowe's enemies start to die hideous deaths.… (more)

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