Published on 15 May 2023
When police arrest eccentric loner Émile Gassiat for the murder of a wealthy woman in a shabby seaside apartment in Biarritz, Inspector Canonne is certain he has put the killer behind bars. Now he just needs to prove it. But he has not reckoned with the young man’s friends, who bring in lawyer-turned-investigator Larten to head for the desolate out-of-season south-west of France to dig deep into what really happened. Larten’s hunt for the truth takes him back to the bustle of Paris as he seeks to demonstrate that the man in prison is innocent, despite all the evidence – and to uncover the true killer behind a series of bizarre murders.
Skin Deep is Antonia Lassa’s first novel to appear in English.
When the body of Madame Elisabeth Audiard is found badly damaged in a rented room Inspector Canonne is put in charge of the police investigation. The victim was wealthy and had been staying at an expensive hotel in Biarritz. What was she doing in this shabby apartment? Who would want to kill an elderly woman? What is the significance of the markings?
After what seems a somewhat cursory investigation, in which only circumstantial evidence points to Madame Audiard’s friend and lover Émile Gassiat as the prime suspect. Still Émile finds himself behind bars as Inspector Canonne strives to find sufficient proof that he is the killer.
Another friend of Émile, Irène Duroudier, engages Albert Larten, a lawyer who mainly works as a private detective, to take Émile’s case. Larten will need all his detective skills to find out who the real killer is in order to get Émile freed.
This short and pacy novel is a fascinating mystery with several layers that add to the story. The book is set mainly between Biarritz and Paris and this is another layer to the mystery of what happened. I enjoyed the use of place. It’s always nice to read about Paris which I have fond memories of visiting. The main characters are front and centre in this mystery and the story is written as each of them are introduced into it.
Inspector Canonne initially came across as caring more about his relationship with his estranged wife and his teeth than he did about investigating the murder not something that endeared me to him. Indeed, I preferred his colleague Deputy Inspector Frier but by the end of the book he went up in my estimation as he listened to Larten, acted upon his information and acknowledged some shortcomings.
Larten was immediately engaging with his otherness which brought a humanness to him, showing his compassion and willingness, his desire to understand Émile.
Émile seems an aloof character as he does not show his emotions and is content to go along with his internment with little protest. He comes across as being somewhat naive believing that his innocence will be acknowledged even though he has no alibi nor any evidence to prove it.
Larten is pivotal in the story for it is he that believes Émile is innocent of murder, it is he who pursues the truth and puts forward another version of what happened and then persuades Inspector Canonne to take that information and make further investigations along with his Parisian colleagues. It is his openness to otherness, as he calls it, that enables him to understand and accept people as they are and not allow prejudice to mar his judgement. Larten has long known that he is himself different from what people expect or would like, he is other.
What makes Skin Deep such a wonderful read is the uniqueness of its characters Émile, Larten and Canonne that challenge our perception of how things should be done, how we should be and how we should live.
In Skin Deep we are challenged by who one should love, how they should live their life, their personal behaviours and how the prejudice around these choices enables some to be blinded into believing they are wrong, they are guilty just because of this difference, because they are other.
Each of us have personal preferences, behaviours, beliefs, opinions and so on, it is what makes us individuals, however we should not always expect everyone to agree with us, as we do not at times agree with others. Whether we agree or not it is important to respect one another, to try and understand each other even with our differences and to be kind.
Skin Deep is a compelling mystery, well plotted and executed with a unique style that culminates in a tense but fulfilling reveal.
As our skin has several layers so too has Skin Deep and it is due to Antonia Lassa’s consummate skill that each is woven seamlessly into the storyline, that we are able to read so deeply and take away so much from this slim yet mighty volume.
Skin Deep is an extremely accomplished book which I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.
Main characters: Police Inspector Canonne | Émile Gassiat who also goes by the name of Maurice Darbo |Albert Larten (Émile’s lawyer and Private Detective)
Setting: Arachon | Biarritz | Paris
Many thanks for the invite to join the Skin Deep BlogTour by Corylus Books organised by Ewa Sherman and an eARC for the purpose of reviewing.
Thanks to Dr. Jacky Collins for her translation that has allowed such an easy and smooth reading of this wonderful book. Translation is a real gift to the reader which, alongside the commitment of publishers such as Corylus Books, brings to the reader without those languages books that would otherwise remain inaccessible.
Why not read more about Skin Deep by checking out the rest of this fantastic BlogTour. Also, check out the Corylus video for Skin Deep.
Published: Corylus Books |15 May 2023 | ISBN: 978-1-7392989-0-6 | Price: £6.99
Buy: Hive.co.uk | Amazon | KOBO | Bookshop.org (affiliated link) | Your local library | Your local bookshop
Dr. Jacky Collins – Translator: Dr Jacky Collins aka Dr Noir, lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Stirling University. In 2014 Dr. Collins established the International Crime Fiction Festival that is Newcastle Noir and is its Festival Director. As ‘Dr Noir’ she regularly interviews a range of internationally acclaimed and emerging crime fiction authors at national and international events. Her series of author ‘consultations’ on the Newcastle Noir YouTube channel – The Doctor Will See You Now – is where lovers of everything crime fiction can catch up on news about latest publications. More recently, she has ventured into local radio, co-hosting Crime Fiction Addiction on SpiceFM, and is part of the Corylus Books team.
Antonia Lassa – author: Born in Paris, Antonia Lassa is an enologist who works as a consultant for different private wineries around the world. This passion for wine has been instilled in her singular detective Albert Larten, for whom each new investigation is like a meticulous tasting. Wine is savoured through the eyes, the nose and the mouth, just like the crimes found in Skin Deep, with readers being invited to get involved with their five senses. Antonia Lassa is the pseudonym of Luisa Etxenike.
GoodReads – Luisa Etxenike Books (Untranslated)
Skin Deep (Translated by Jacky Collins, Published by Corylus Books)
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Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s well worth reading.
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I will check it out.
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