The Skin Room, by Morgan Fleetwood, is a dark narrative about a man who recalls memories of blood, decadence, and murder, all within the guise of a nightmarish confession.
The book is separated into three parts. The first part, Failure, is about Alex Melville, a translator who tries to kidnap a woman named Valentina and use her for a ritual. He has a sister named Sonia, whom he believes is being abused by her boyfriend, and a father that forgets the goriest of details. The second part, Fugitive, shows Alex on the run in the aftermath of Valentina’s murder. He races to find his sister, whom he believes could help him. The third part, Female, finally allows Alex to fall deeper and deeper into his depravity. He meets the Inspector while dressed in Sonia’s clothes and going by the alias Sandra, a he tries to uncover the truth behind Sonia’s disappearance.
I loved reading about Alex. I enjoyed every dark twist in his thoughts as he slipped further into his madness, until all that’s left was the monster beneath, a horrific creature lurking in the back of his mind. With every part I finished, I couldn’t help but flinch. It was as if he was peeling back layers of his insanity, lulling me further into his chasm of depravity. Though he was caught by the Inspector in the end, he still doesn’t relinquish that disturbing atmosphere. It was made all the apparent when he felt that he had something to do with Sonia’s death. Throughout the story, he never attempted to reconcile himself with what he’s done. He doesn’t mention anything about morality, never thought about convincing himself that he was doing the right thing. It wasn’t anything I’ve read before; it was like I was reading a hollow being I can neither call a monster or human.
I can’t help but compare this book to Stephen King’s nightmarish work, Carrie. The titular protagonist wanted to belong, but when she was humiliated, she slaughtered her classmates with her powers. However, in Fleetwood’s book, Alex makes no attempt to try to belong; he acts as if he does, but there was nothing else normal about him. Whereas Carrie was about an innocent girl who was dragged down a road to Hell, Alex acted as though he paved the way to begin with, taking everyone down with him, neither seeing nor caring who gets pulled in. If the two were together, I have no doubt that Alex will try to lure Carrie into his den, and in the same way as he did with Valentina.
Overall, I would give this book a rating of a 4.0 out of 5 stars. Alex’s insanity and sadistic nature reflected back at me the depths of human depravity, which bordered the edge of Hell. I also loved the way it reminded me Carrie, and how such a sweet innocent girl will no doubt wallow in despair at the complexities of Alex’s mind. Because of this, I would recommend this book to fans of The Mask of Sanity by Jacob Appel and Xenon Phobia by Sterling Emmal.