Those of you who keep track of my ramblings will remember that I really enjoyed Adam Pepper’s take on an urban fantasy novel, The Symphony of Blood.  Skin Games, sees Adam shifting genre into the more traditional gritty urban crime novel, full of New York gangsters, hoodlums and dames in need of help.   The question is can Pepper make the transition from urban fantasy / horror to  crime?
Thankfully, much of what I enjoyed about Pepper’s previous novel is present in Skin Games as well.  One of the strongest parts of Pepper’s writing is a sense of identity and location.  .  A big problem with a lot of novels is when comes to a sense of setting, they are very vanilla, they lack a real sense of location.   The characters and the locations of this novel live and breath New York.  Skin Games is a novel set in New York filled with New York characters.  When reading this book, you hear the characters speaking in a New York accent in your head, which  helps to give the book a strong grounding in reality.  The story is told through Sean “Shamrock” O’Donnell, a hard nosed, loyal, Irish American.  And it is here that the strength of characterisation really kicks in and stops O’Donnell from becoming just another clichéd Irish New York punk. 
But as everyone knows, you need a bit more than strong characters to make a story gripping and enjoyable.  And this is something that Adam Pepper also knows.  Skin Games gives you everything you would want in a crime thriller, and more.  Love, betrayal, lots of violence, really nasty characters, all held together by a well written  first person narrative, that keeps you turning the pages, just to see how far O’Donnell will go for love.  

With Skin Games, Pepper has built on the solid foundations of his previous novel.  This is a very good read that shows a talented author growing and honing his skill.  Highly recommended.


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