Skeletal by Lee (Katherine) Hayton
Self published in January 2015.
Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
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How I got this book:
Took advantage of free Amazon promotion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
'Three months before she died Daina Harrow faced a bully at school. Six weeks before she died Daina Harrow suffered an assault in the park. One week before she died Daina Harrow stole a secret people had killed to hide. That was ten years ago. Ten long years. Now, her bones have been found on a building site. A coroner's inquest has been reopened. A parade of witnesses is about to start. And Daina's here. Watching every day as her mother cries in the courtroom. Watching every day as her friends, and her enemies, and her killers lie about her on the stand. Watching, and making sure that no matter what the coroner hears, you know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help you God.'
I have read a few Katherine Hayton books already and Skeletal is absolutely my favourite yet. When I got my copy, the book was attributed to 'Katherine', but she is now moving over to using her middle name,' Lee', (it fits better onto book covers!) so you might see this story with either name as its author.
I was completely gripped throughout by this ingenious multi-layered story and I love the character of Daina. As our narrator from the beyond, we know right from the start of the book that Daina has died. Her spirit is attending its own coroner's inquest (which must be an extremely bizarre sensation) so we get to learn what the witnesses say they saw and Daina's own version of their statements. Sometimes the two versions even match! Despite this supernatural element, Skeletal is no fantasy thriller. Hayton realistically explores deep issues of child neglect and abuse, alcoholism, and bullying which makes the novel a difficult book to read on an emotional level, but I couldn't put it down. I had to keep reading in order to find out what happened!
We see aspects of Daina's life over three time periods - as a five year old in 1994, a fifteen year old in 2004, and at the inquest in 2014. Jumping between these moments gives a good depth to the story and I liked that this is also very much a New Zealand story. Mentions of earthquake aftermath and brief quirks of language add an extra layer of interest which I appreciated. Skeletal is a thoughtful thriller, but one with a good pace and I was quite breathless by the end. Perhaps I shouldn't have devoured those last few chapters so quickly! Skeletal isn't a thriller for pure action fans and readers with abuse or bullying triggers should probably steer clear as some scenes are disturbingly vivid. However, if those warnings don't apply, then I highly recommend this novel.
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Books by Katherine Hayton / Thrillers / Books from New Zealand