When Jo takes on Vivi’s identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her back with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. As hidden crimes come to the surface, and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold onto an illusion of safety or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.
I really enjoyed reading this book. In Her Skin is a compelling, first-person story of a 16-year old con artist who impersonates a missing girl.
Jo is a drifter and a grifter. After running cons with her mother’s abusive boyfriend, and subsequently running away after that boyfriend molests her and kills her mother, she’s tired of living on the cold streets of Boston.
One day at the library, she stumbles onto her latest unsuspecting mark: the privileged, hyper-achieving Temple Lovecraft.
In a stroke of divine coincidence, Jo Googles Temple before she steals her identity. She finds that the Lovecrafts were embroiled in a years-old unsolved disappearance involving their daughter’s best friend, Vivienne Weir. A young Vivienne was mysteriously kidnapped while the Lovecrafts went to dinner at a restaurant attached to their brownstone. Years later, the Weir parents were killed in a plane crash, and the Lovecrafts were directed to take custody of Vivienne if she was found.
Jo sees her opportunity. She impersonates Vivienne and embeds herself in the Lovecrafts’ glitzy, upper-crust lives. Jo must convince the police and the Lovecrafts, especially the erratic, magnetic Temple Lovecraft, of her new identity. Unfortunately for Jo, the circumstances surrounding Vivienne’s disappearance might not be as simple as she first believed, and she finds herself in a different sort of danger than before.
The ‘con artist’ aspect of this book is rather light. Instead, it thrives on a Daphne DuMaurier-esque sense of suspense. Savage is particularly good at instilling horror using short, simple sentences. The action unfolds quickly, and the pacing from start to finish feels just right. The book’s narrative style is oftentimes blunt and gritty, which fits well with Jo’s hardened upbringing and survivalist worldview. Every sentence feels meaningful and has a place.
The book feels very deliberate and well-written. While not filled with some of the hallmarks of ‘gold standard literary fiction,’ it fits Jo’s narrative style. Her observations happen in real time so that the reader follows Jo through each decision and the action feels more immediate and high stakes. Past traumas are presented so matter-of-factly and others suggested in a way that feels both brutal and authentic. No sugar coats, no graphic details. Just the facts, the emotions, and the creeping suspicion that something is uncannily wrong.
Everything about this book is pitch-perfect, except that the author does such a good job of dropping hints about the truth of Vivienne Weir’s disappearance that readers might (and I did) guess the twist relatively early in the book.
Other than the potential obviousness of the reveal, I highly recommend taking a journey In Her Skin with this novel. Sit back and enjoy its steady thrum of mystery, suspense, and adrenaline from start to finish.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, on the South Shore, which sounds beachy, even luxe. Think Winnebagos and chicken coops. My three brothers, 16, 10, and 8 years older, were teens by the time I became a person. Happiest around adults, who often forgot I was there, I spent days eavesdropping on gossipy moms in lawn chairs and nights listening under the table during tipsy Scrabble parties.
My dad read to me nightly. Eventually and early, I read to myself, everywhere. On top of an enormous freezer chest stuffed with meat. On drives until I grew nauseous. In bed until my eyes gave out. I read anything I could get my hands on. V.C. Andrews and Dickens. Black Beauty and the Bible. The Economist. Madeline L’Engle and Margaret Atwood. National Geographic.
I got a bachelor’s degree in English from Stonehill College and a Master’s in Journalism from Northeastern University. For a while, I worked as a business journalist. Instead of waiting for the Federal Reserve to release the Beige Book, I pitched story ideas along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You see where things were headed.
Today, I live with my family northwest of Boston in a town a lot like Shiverton, near the real Fells reservation of AFTER THE WOODS. Born with dysgeographica—I’m directionally challenged—the fear of getting lost in that lovely, dark forest lives close to my skin.
1 winner will receive a finished copy of
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