Beneath Her Skin (2021) – C.S. Porter

Nimbus Publishing, under its Vagrant Press, brings a new voice, C.S. Porter to the mystery genre, with their first novel, Beneath Her Skin, a lean, brisk, thriller.

With the sub-title A Kes Morris File, one can assume that this will be Porter’s first foray into a series around their creation of Kes Morris, a female homicide detective who is very good at what she does. She’s tough, fair, and keeps the world at a distance, except for her target, she works to get under their skin and understand them.

She’s so good in fact, that she picks up an assignment to a small town that has just had a pair of brutal killings, practically executions, and they mean something. Something that will lead to a dark and horrific secret that has brought out someone seeking revenge.

Or, as Kes begins to believe, more than one person. And their locals.

Porter paints visual pictures with their words, letting the imagery soak into your brain like an expanding blood stain, letting you explore and understand it in your own ways, even as the story rockets along.

The mystery is easily resolved once the first couple of clues fall into place, but it’s the journey that makes this story truly engaging, and one wonders how much we’ll learn of Kes’ past, the influence of her father, her failed relationships, and the love of her daughter, in future files.

Porter doesn’t waste words. There’s not an extraneous sentence, or even word through the text, and while I do enjoy the succinct way the story is told, I do wish that we’d gotten more of a feel for the small town that story is set in. But like it says in the sub-title, ‘File,’ so it’s to the point, punchy, and laser-focused on its primary narrative.

I’m going to enjoy following these stories, to see how both Porter and Kes grow. And though it’s not brought right out into the open, this story feels very Canadian. It’s set on the east coast, and if you’re asking me to specifically peg down what province, it just feels like Nova Scotia, there’s something about the way Porter presents his supporting characters that just feels like places I know in that beautiful province.

This is a novel that, if you don’t restrain yourself, can be finished in one sitting, and that would only leave you wanting more. We’re on the cusp of getting beneath Kes’ skin, and being let in to who she is, the weight she takes on with each and every case she investigates, and just as we do, the tale comes to an end, the mystery solved.

And speaking of the mystery, without doing spoilers, this one strikes pretty close to home for most Canadians and that’s what makes this story really terrifying, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Alright Porter, you won me over with your first book, please don’t keep me waiting too long for your next one.

Beneath Her Skin is available now from Nimbus Publishing and can be purchased on their website here or at Amazon.

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