Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Skin Lane-Neil Bartlett

Skin Lane
Neil Bartlett
Serpent's Tail, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN 9781852429928

In London forty-six year old Mr. F is a creature of habit. He has worked at the same place for over three decades never changing his work day routine or for that matter the cut and color of his suit since he bought his first one for the funeral of King George VI. Mr. F. is a private person never altering his routine for instance how he comes and goes from work at Scheiner’s or when he arrives or departs never changes and has not since he joined the firm in 1934.

In January 1967, Mr. F. begins to dream of a handsome naked young male corpse. His fantasy disturbs Mr. F., but he is not sure why except he does not like change even when he sleeps. The dream repeats itself several nights in a row. An even more radical change occurs when the boss assigns Mr. F to mentor his sixteen year old nephew Ralph who has not the time or patience for old fogies like his father, uncle or Mr. F. To his shock and obsessive need, Mr. F believes Ralph is the star of his sordid nightmares.

SKIN LANE (aptly named for the fur trade as well as for Mr. F’s first time desires for someone else) is a deep slowly simmering psychological suspense thriller. Mr. F. obviously dominates the tale as the audience follows him for a few months while also learning of his past. The support cast enhances understanding of Mr. F., the business andthe obsession. Fans will appreciate Neil Bartlett’s character driven tale of a middle age loner fixating on his apprentice.
Harriet Klausner