The local police, it seems, are barely able to control the situation. Some suspect they have been bought and can’t be trusted.
Amid the chaos, two siblings who’ve been orphaned by circumstance return to this town after many years away. Cassie and Clay have no idea the mess they’re stepping into just trying to manage their estranged, now missing, father’s gas station. However, circumstance quickly traps them in the center of the town’s unsolved mysteries.
Cassie, the oldest, is the sole caretaker for her young brother. She’s just a young adult herself, though mature, and suffers from too much responsibility and very little help. The gas station’s only other worker is exhausted from running a 24-hour business alone in her father’s absence and is frequently narcoleptic, she can’t get answers from police as she tries to solve her father’s disappearance in the woods, she’s got Clay to worry about, and personally she struggles to find footing in life with boys and adulthood.
It’s a suspicious situation with not a lot of clues and nobody knows whodunnit. A conspiracy theorist blames clearcutting cover-ups for the townspeople’s disappearances. Clay’s imaginary (or possibly real?) friend looks like a ghost and beckons him constantly into the woods and close to danger. A suspect and possible witness to these crimes wakes up from her coma in the hospital but escapes before questioning. A reporter, always looking for answers, struggles to find the right ones.
It’s a well-crafted and spooky drama with all the best human and supernatural elements you could hope for in a gripping mystery story. The ghost character is at once hilarious and chilling and certainly my favorite from the book. The plot tosses and turns, evading understanding, only to finish with an even more terrifying conclusion than what can be imagined.
“Only Skin” is a very plot-driven book with its characters and environment serving purposeful roles to drive that plot forward. Its characters are interesting, not thin, despite this, but it’s easy to be sad at the end for lack of a few more substantial B-plots. You can see how Ford wrote in the potential to spiral this story into a long-running, fully-engaging series (it was originally serialized in 7 parts) but maybe he felt pressure over the long creation process to take few detours and concentrate on distilling and prioritizing his plan into a trim story with a good flow.
And it’s great, seriously. All things being equal, I just wish for more of it since the world is so interesting.
“Only Skin” is 272 pages long, black and white with a color cover, and can be bought online through its indie publisher Secret Acres’ webstore for $21.95 plus shipping. You’ll find regular news about the book and updates from its author Sean Ford on his website, onlyskincomics.com .