Page Count 304 / Publication date May 2019/ Publisher Flame Tree Press
Myles Carver is dead. But his estate, Watermere, lives on, waiting for a new Carver to move in. Myles’s wife, Annabel, is dead too, but she is also waiting, lying in her grave in the woods.
For nearly half a century she was responsible for a nightmarish reign of terror, and she’s not prepared to stop now. She is hungry to live again…and her unsuspecting nephew, Paul, will be the key.
Julia Merrow has a secret almost as dark as Watermere’s. But when she and Paul fall in love they think their problems might be over. How can they know what Fate–and Annabel–have in store for them? Who could imagine that what was once a moldering corpse in a forest grave is growing stronger every day, eager to take her rightful place amongst the horrors of Watermere?
My favourite part was the book within this book. The Carver family history told via flashbacks and in part by the novel Paul writes whilst in a trance. Annabel’s tale had an eerie, ominous atmosphere that continued to pervade the grounds of the house during the present timeline.
Janz’ writing can turn on a dime. Lulling the reader into false security with actions as commonplace as a tiring drive on the highway, only to snap your head back with stomach curdling scenes of unnatural brutality. The possums were just a hint of the insidious evil to come.
With an unflinching exploration of his characters animalistic urges, debauched thoughts and crass mental imagery, Janz demonstrates his ability to deeply unsettle the reader and maintain a constant state of unease.
Annabel was a formidable and powerful antagonist, I found her ability to cloud peoples perceptions with beauty particularly repulsive. I felt myself almost sympathising with both Paul and even Myles at times in the tale. I was constantly swinging between pity and disgust for many of the characters Janz created.
Although I didn’t like any of them I still desperately needed to know what would become of the small town and how Annabel was operating.
A few things bothered me in House Of Skin. A character who runs out of a building butt naked suddenly has clothing on. Annabel Carver is referred to alternately as Paul’s aunt as well as Paul’s great aunt. The timeline confused me too, I frequently struggled to match the characters ages with their histories.
Those niggles aside, House Of Skin is the kind of dirty, creeping haunt that made me feel I needed to scrub myself clean after reading.