Review by Sandra Ruttan

Stephen Blake plans to live the American dream. His friend Tommy pulls him into a scheme, but Stephen doesn’t like the looks of Tommy’s IRA associate who’s running the show. Stephen concocts a plan that will allow him and his girlfriend Siobhan to move to America with a pile of money.

And things go horribly wrong.

I personally don’t like to touch on plot elements that would be spoilers unless I feel there is a critical flaw in the story. In AMERICAN SKIN I don’t want to touch more on the specifics of the plot at all, because this is the kind of story I find myself completely absorbed by. I couldn’t see the end from the beginning, because Bruen deftly weaves the threads together in a way that keep you guessing. Although you have a sense of the emotion the story will evoke and you know (as anyone who reads Bruen would know) that the story can’t possibly have a fairy-tale ending, you can’t put it down because you have to know what happened, and how it will all intersect.

This book contains some of Bruen’s most violent characters yet and it isn’t for the faint of heart. However it is superbly written, a spellbinding tale that grips the reader from beginning to end. One thing I love about Bruen’s books is that he doesn’t try to make sense of the violence of some people for the reader. Some criminals just are what they are, and they make no apologies for it. There’s no psychoanalysis at work. The humane characters are haunting and tragic and balance those without conscience. Stephen Blake is the man in the middle, as it were, torn between angels and devils. His choices and the consequences will hopefully be the things that torment his soul in a future Bruen offering. I have my fingers crossed for more of Blake in a follow-up, although I am not aware of any plans for a continuation at this time.


Sandra Ruttan's debut novel, Suspicious Circumstances, was released in January 2007. Her short fiction has appeared in Out of the Gutter, Demolition, Mouth Full of Bullets, Crimespree Magazine, The Cynic and Spinetingler. For more information visit her website.

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