Book Review: Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones

Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones

A haunting and evocative mystery set on a remote Scottish island

Grief-stricken and on the verge of a breakdown, Luda Managan and her two teenaged children try to make a home for themselves on a collection of harsh and haunted Scottish islands. 
 
Luda, a photographer, is mesmerised by the extraordinary magic of the islands and soon finds herself condemned by the local community after publishing images documenting the death of a local child. Alienated, Luda turns her attention to the records from the 17th century island witch-hunts and the fragmented life stories of the executed women. Min, restless and strong, tries to fill up the space in their family left by her father. She soon finds comfort in the depths of the icy North Sea and in an unlikely friendship with the elderly and irreverent local ‘witch’. The only thing that beautiful and gifted Darcy cares about is getting marks high enough for entry into university – one very, very far away from his mother. 
 
Until he meets the wild foundling, Theo. 
 
When a tragic accident unleashes ghosts and the echoes of long-ago violence and betrayal into their lives, the Managans are forced to confront the ways that history both hinders us and sets us free. 
 
Drawing on records of the witch trials and folk tales of the northern isles, Salt and Skin is full of tenderness, magic and yearning. It’s a meditation on the absence of women’s voices and stories in history, and the unexpected ways that sites of long-ago trauma continue to haunt the living

Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones

My Review

I wanted to jump through the cover and walk around in Salt and Skin’s evocative witchy world. I found myself reading slower than usual so that I could savour this beautifully written haunting story for as long as possible.

When Luda and her two teenage children, Min and Darcy, move from drought-stricken Australia to the wild and isolated Scottish islands for Luda’s new job recording the impact of climate change on the islands, they are plunged into the folklore and witchy history of their new home while also dealing with their own tragic past.

With the help of her colleague, Tristan, Luda becomes fascinated with the witch markings in their home (perfectly named ‘the ghost house’) and the history of the women who made them. I loved learning more about the history of the 17th century Scottish witch trials through this story line. So often women’s voices aren’t recorded through history and I enjoyed thinking about what those women could have been like along with Luda in her investigation.

Min and Darcy make friends with a young foundling, Theo, who many people suspect could be a selkie. Theo’s story felt so personal, like I was reading about somebody I knew, yet there was also the mythology surrounding his origins that felt so other worldly.

I enjoyed the fragmented nature of this story and, as always, Henry-Jones’s prose is beautiful. Lyrical and both strong and incredibly vulnerable about the same time. I’m so glad that I was able to read it.

Details

Title: Salt and Skin

Author: Eliza Henry-Jones

Published: August 2022, Ultimo Press

Format: Paperback, 320 pages

RRP: $32.99

Source: Own Copy

Goodreads: Salt and Skin

Book Review: The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

Synopsis

Winner of the inaugural Allen & Unwin Crime Prize.

‘So you believed the alleged rapists over the alleged victim?’ Jane’s voice took on an indignant pitch. ‘Girls lie sometimes.’ I nodded. ‘And rapists lie all the time.’

When Senior Detective Antigone Pollard moves to the coastal town of Deception Bay, she is still in shock and grief. Back in Melbourne, one of her cases had gone catastrophically wrong, and to escape the guilt and the haunting memories, she’d requested a transfer to the quiet town she’d grown up in.

But there are some things you can’t run from. A month into her new life, she is targeted by a would-be rapist at the pub, and realises why there have been no convictions following a spate of similar sexual attacks in the surrounding district. The male witnesses in the pub back her attacker and even her boss doesn’t believe her.

Hers is the first reported case in Deception Bay, but soon there are more. As Antigone searches for answers, she encounters a wall of silence in the town built of secrets and denial and fear. The women of Deception Bay are scared and the law is not on their side. The nightmare has followed her home.

Chilling, timely and gripping, The Unbelieved takes us behind the headlines to a small-town world that is all too real – and introduces us to a brilliant new voice in crime fiction.

My Review

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis is a fast-paced chilling story about small town secrets.

Senior Detective Antigone Pollard has escaped from Melbourne to the small coastal town of Deception Bay after a rape case went horribly wrong. Almost as soon as she arrives, she is exposed to a group of drink spikers responsible for a spate of sexual assaults in the area and is determined to get to the bottom of who is responsible. What she didn’t expect is the wall of denial and fear that she must encounter at every turn – even from her boss.

I’ve long been a fan of Vikki Petraitis’s true crime books and podcasts and I enjoyed her first fiction novel just as much. She’s expertly woven in facts with fiction to create this important and timely story about how difficult it is to get true justice in sexual assault cases.

I loved Antigone’s tough no-nonsense exterior, even while she was under such an incredible amount of pressure. She had a lot of depth as a character and I think that the first person narrative was an excellent choice for this story as it allowed for more of Antigone’s thoughts and feelings to be explored. She might have been a bit too much of a strong female stereotype if her vulnerabilities weren’t revealed throughout the story this way.

The supporting cast of characters were also well-rounded. I particularly enjoyed her somewhat bumbling, but well intentioned, partner Wozza and Pip was a delightful surprise. Waffles the failed police dog was my favourite though!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Unbelieved and am looking forward to reading more!

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my review copy.

Title: The Unbelieved

Author: Vikki Petraitis

Published: Allen & Unwin 02 Aug 2022

Pages: 384

RRP: $32.99 AUD

Source: Publisher

Goodreads: The Unbelieved