Sunday Shorts – “Skin,” by Christian Baines


Available from Bold Strokes Books.

Kyle, a young newcomer to New Orleans, is haunted by the memory of his first lover, brutally murdered just outside the French Quarter. 

Marc, a young Quarter hustler, is haunted by an eccentric spirit that shares his dreams, and by the handsome but vicious lover who shares his bed. 

When the barrier between these men comes down, it will prove thinner than the veil between the living and the dead…or between justice and revenge.

This novella was dark psychological/paranormal perfection. I know I say it too often, but I’m not a reader of horror, nor a reader of gore, so finding a dark read that walks the line of thriller without crossing over, or a paranormal nudging the edge of the same borders is a rare, rare treat for me, and Skin is the best example of this I’ve read in years.

Opening with Kyle, a young man coming to New Orleans without much of a net (or a plan), we watch as Kyle loses the first person who makes the city remotely welcoming for him. That death sets everything in motion.

We also follow Marc, a hustler in the quarter who dances for singles and shares a room with a dangerously tempered fellow dancer, and with whom he shares a love/hate/lust/obsession tangle of dark emotion.

The intersection of the two men goes down as one of my favourite moments in prose in years, and even as I dared to hope, I knew to expect the worst of the human psyche to be explored in Baines’s writing, and Skin delivers exactly that. After all, in the hands of Baines, you know what will come of a character’s best intentions.

Skin was so richly written, so incredibly twisted, and was so rewarding to me. If it’s possible to be darkly satisfied and still raw, that’s what Skin delivered. Grab it. Give it to all your friends who want to read something shadowy and twisted and vengeful.

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