BENEATH THE SKIN
5 October 2017
Paperback Original, EB, Audio
Presenting a stunning debut psychological thriller about a life-changing lie.
Caroline England’s, Beneath The Skin is a tense and compelling read, exploring truth, friendships and betrayal.
No-one remembers your past. But you do.
‘Antonia, Antonia. My name is Antonia.’
It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets. Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub, and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what the teenage Antonia saw all those years ago. No-one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too addled to remember the truth.
Antonia is safe. Isn’t she? The lies start small. They always do. But when the tightly woven story you’ve told yourself begins to unravel, the truth threatens to come to the surface. And then what’s going to happen?
Caroline England is a former divorce lawyer based in Manchester, whose fiction has appeared in various literary magazines. Her background lends this book about couples a real authenticity.
‘Antonia, darling, you do have green fingers!’ Naomi the neighbour shouts from over the fence, her voice startling Antonia as she stands on the doorstep. She feels suddenly shy.
‘Perhaps I do,’ she replies with a guilty clutch of conceit as she blushes in acknowledgement.
It relaxes her usually; the garden, the fresh air, the birds and the hills reaching up to the steep ridge of The Edge. But today she’s agitated and even gardening hasn’t settled her. She goes inside, takes off her waxed jacket in the hall and strokes her arm. The cut has started to scab and it’s itchy. It always is when the healing process is underway. Like a little reminder.
‘The Chablis has been staring at me again,’ Sophie joked the other day.
‘Then don’t have it in the house,’ Antonia replied sternly.
But she understood completely. A tempting treat at the tip of one’s fingertips. It’s just a question of how long each of them can resist.
‘That’s a nasty cut,’ David had commented, not so long ago. ‘How did you do that?’
They were in bed and a shaft of light slanting through the shutters lit her naked body.
‘Gardening. Those hawthorns can be vicious,’ she’d replied brightly, turning towards him and pulling him into an embrace. But she’d caught his troubled look, that frown of love he has when he doesn’t know she’s looking. She must be more careful.
The answerphone light in the kitchen is flashing. She sighs and stares for a moment, then walks briskly to the telephone, quickly presses play, turns her back and busies herself loudly at the sink as though that will swamp the sound of the inevitable.
‘Hi, it’s Zara Singh again. The journalist? I think we got cut off. I’d really appreciate it if you could call me back?’ The rise in tone makes it sound like a question. And then she hears Candy’s hesitant voice, for the fourth time today. ‘Hello, Chinue, love. It’s Mum. Are you there?’