In Sheep’s Skin: Scott Hale
Reviewed By Tarn Richardson
Remember when you were young and went to the cinema, pockets bulging with sweets from the local sweetshop (because even back then you knew the cinema was ripping you off with its food prices)?
During the trailers you’d devour your fizz bombs, sherbet dip, candy cigarettes, pink prawns, mallow bananas, milk bottles, strawberry laces and chocolate mice, before sitting back in a buzzing state of pre-teen out of body e-number head fuzz, drinking in the widescreen entertainment and thinking you could never be happier – that this was what living was all about. Thanks to unregulated sweetener overload, you believed even more that a man could fly, that aliens loved potted plants and a boomerang with blades could kill an inter-dimensional demon (if you don’t know what I am talking about, see me after class).
I thought those halcyon days were long behind me, never to be repeated, until I had the pleasure of reading Scott Hale’s In Sheep’s Skin, a suped-up werewolf novel that whirls around your brain like those e-numbers from your youth. This is literary tartrazine, something that gets into your system and makes you shuffle and itch on your seat whilst you read.
Being a huge fan and advocate of the werewolf genre, I had high hopes, but some reservations, about Hale’s foray into the world of lycanthropy. As I closed the final page, I can wholeheartedly say that he knocked this one out of the park.
In Sheep’s Skin is a rollercoaster ride of murder, mystery, deception, derision, love, life, friendship and bitter simpering resentment, delivered with a hellbent, devil-may-care arrogance and insane confidence that is as beguiling as it is besotting. The fast-paced comic-book narrative Hale adopts in his writing style ripples off the page, as prominent and bold as anything I have read in recent years. His abrupt, loose, modern style is the closest thing to him giving the reader the middle finger; whilst as the reader all you want to do is give him a hug in thanks.
In Sheep’s Skin is the bastard child of American Werewolf in London and Natural Born Killers, with a childhood brought up on Pulp Fiction and From Dusk Till Dawn (wrong monster, but you get the gist). It’s blunt and direct, brutal to the point of revulsion, honest and completely fresh. Whilst bleak, it’s shot through with shimmering pinpricks of humour and crammed full of utterly horrible yet totally relatable characters, none of whom you’d like to be stuck in a room with for long, and yet all of whom you’d love to interrogate behind toughed glass.
Centred around two main protagonists, Peter and Mary, In Sheep’s Skin examines the human emotions of love, hate, sex and violence, through their eyes and experiences, as events begin to turn against them and the ones they love. At breakneck pace, Hale whisks you through a series of dazzling scenes of carnage, all beautifully and brilliantly written, each dragging you ever closer towards the bloody explosive conclusion. Along the journey, the author cleverly plays with your own emotions, wrong-footing you, getting you to root for one side, before pulling the carpet from under you.
Werewolves, cults, dead beats, beat cops walking the streets, they all get thrown into the mix of this standout occult horror fest that’ll have you sweating in your chair by the end – just like you did when you came down off your cinema e-number sweet high as a kid.
Knives out. This book deserves to be devoured!
In Sheep’s Skin
College students, and merely acquaintances, Peter and Mary had nothing in common with one another. Until two unrelated killers came for them. A beast-like man. And a man-like beast. On the same night. At the same time. In the same place. Bound by their trauma and their will to live at any cost, Peter and Mary have until the next full moon to uncover the identities of their would-be killers. But to do that, they will have to dismantle every lie they told and believed about themselves to save themselves from their far more dangerous and disintegrating pasts.
Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.
Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk