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Skin Medicine by Tim Curran

Rating : 3.5/5

Read between: August 27,2016 to September 2,2016
December,2016 last week

Edition Details:
Format: E-Book
Page Count: 271
Publisher:Severed Press

First Sentence:
The moon came up.

Utah Territory,1882

Whisper lake seems to be an ordinary mining town. It has everything alcohol, sex and the people that are rough and violent. Shooting and knife fights are common.People keep coming and then disappearing. In other word it's the perfect place for Sin City Strangler, the serial killer that gets his kicks by choking sex workers and then eviscerating them. 

Tyler Cabe is a civil war veteran and bounty hunter. He has been following Sin City Strangler and the pursuit has brought him to Whisper lake. 

But there's something evil brewing in Whisper lake. Murders are happening in and around the town. These are not normal killings. People are being killed in the most gruesome ways. And people say these are no human killers.

Did Tyler Cabe get more than what he bargained for?
What has the Sin City Strangler planned next?
Who is/are behind these gruesome murders?

Skin medicine is a western horror thriller. The first thing that made an impact on me was the violence that's shown here. It is set in  a very violent time. The people in the story are those who are used to killings. And i know the story may be fiction but that particular  time in American History was more or less what has been described. Today also there would be places like that but for most parts it's very peaceful. I have lived a very sheltered life and imagining that such places existed or exist is enough to send the chill down my spine without the supernatural element. Add the supernatural element and it's difficult to decide as to who should you be more afraid of? The crazy humans or the more crazy supernatural beasts.The book takes place in a mining town where knifing, drunken brawls, drunken shootings are normal. There is violence, there is gore described in graphic details, there is occult, men transforming to beast due to the black magic, a serial killer, a bounty hunter, in short every thing that makes this book an entertaining read.

But there were few points in the book that i didn't like. I think they affected the story in a bad way for me and turned what was essentially a five star book to a three and half star book.

The first thing is that there is lot going on in the book and sometimes it can be distracting. The book is mainly about James lee Cobb and the black magic called skin medicine that he practised.It's clear that he's the main antagonist- the force with whom the protagonist- Tyler Cabe has to fight. But there is a lot going on the town. He comes to town following a serial killer which is a sub plot in itself. Then the town in which he comes is not some idyllic, tranquil town. A lot is happening there . There are vigilantes, episode of hero getting on the wrong side of some shooter and then revenge by kin of that shooter, then there is a personal issue that he has to confront in visiting the town. These sub plots finally lead to the finale but it meanders a lot reaching to it.  Although, all the events in themselves were interesting but i guess if  the quantity of events would have been less it would have helped the book a lot.

The same thing is done for the antagonist too.
James lee cobb is mentioned slightly in the starting chapters and then is forgotten. Then a whole part is devoted to him. The third part of the book is James lee cobb: A disturbing and morbid history.
Now, here the story is stopped. Prior to this part, the identity of sin city strangler is revealed. It's also revealed who his next victim would be. It's also revealed that something sinister is living in Deliverance. The vigilantes are planning revenge from Mormons. In short the story is moving fast towards the culmination. Now, stopping it here and going over history of  James Lee Cobb doesn't makes sense to me. The pace is sacrificed to introduce the antagonist and tell the reader how bad he was.Yes, i get it we need to know how he became what he eventually became but i personally believe that if that info could somehow be interspersed in between the first and two parts instead of giving it all in a third part, we would have a tauter story line.

Regarding this third part i have to say that it's not that i didn't like it. It is one the most violent part in the book. I guess this part could have worked as a separate novella. It's good in itself but stops the flow of the story and hence lessens the effect of the story on the reader.

Although after reading the part i searched the net to find whether scalping operations actually took place. They were very cruel for me and i was surprised to find that they were true. The character of James Lee Cobb seems to be somewhat inspired from John Joel Galton. The scalping operations the two take have a lot of similarities. The only difference between them being that Galton was killed by the Indians in 1851 while Cobb goes scot-free.

Now if you haven't read the book then you shouldn't read the next paragraph as it can be a spoiler. This is not something that i didn't like about the book. I had only the above mentioned two problems with it. I enjoyed rest of the book.

I was  affected a lot by the the episode between Janice Dirker and Tyler Cabe. Jackson is a good man and despite  of  it when Janice cheated on him i felt bad for Jackson and i couldn't see Tyler as hero. I have read this book two times now and the first time i read it i hated Tyler's guts. I think he did wrong and when Jackson dies i wished it was Tyler instead of him. I know why i felt bad for Jackson. He's a taciturn guy.  He does what is right but i think he had hard time showing his emotions and i could feel a kinship with him. I saw me in him and when something like that happened i felt like it had happened to me. I placed myself in foots of Tyler and i knew i wouldn't have done what he did. The funny part was when Jackson dies Janice is dressed in  black mourning him. As a person I didn't get it. But reading second time the effect was lesser. It didn't mean that i didn't hated Tyler, i did but it was less. Now i kept thinking why i had problem with Tyler but not with Janice. She was equally responsible.

As  a reader i would have liked to see how the relationship between Janice and Tyler progressed. Jackson died and they both know they haven't been faithful to him. Would they be able to set that thing aside? Or would it end up in destroying their relationship? And the most important thing that i need to think is that why i didn't have the problem with the wife but had with the other guy.

I don't know about you but i find it funny what the book made me think. I hadn't expected to read a horror novel and then ponder over these things.

The book has some amazing characters but i liked Charles Graybrow the most. He's the most entertaining of the lot. He is funny in a self deprecating way and i enjoyed his sense of humour. The way he keeps referring himself as a simple injun before saying his barbs, were insanely funny. It was one of the best characters of the book and i loved him. Some of his quotes:

'Just a suggestion,' the Indian said,'I'm good with suggestions, but not much with following them.'

"But you know Tyler Cabe, I'm an injun and sometimes we do go on. I got a good imagination," he said."I can read, you know that? I like reading them dime novels and i know everything they say is true. All those stories of redskins attacking wagon trains and kidnapping white woman and children... just a shame. I know whites would never kill and burn like that. It's a good thing the white man came out here and sorted out all us heathen red devils. I'm truly thankful for that."

Cabe told him he didn't strike him as a man who scared easy and Graybrow launched into a tirade about how he was just a simple savage and the white world was so fast and complicated.. it frightened him. All he wanted from life was a tipi and a fire to dance naked around. And maybe a buffalo robe and a chew of tobacco.

There are many more gems like that. I was smiling every time he came on the scene.

I enjoyed the book immensely. It had all the elements of a good thriller and horror book . I think it was one of the best horror books that i read this year..

Some lines from the book:

The black sky unbuttoned itself like a corset, spilling cold, freezing rain by buckets that found the wind, joined with it, becoming a raging, angry thing that pounded the landscape, lashing and whipping and driving anything with blood in its veins to cover. Dusty, sun-cracked soil became mud. Mud became swamp. Swamp became rivers and creeks that overflowed their banks and sank the world.

Sometimes a little confession softened a person. Sometimes you had to expose your flanks to win the battle.

Hot-headed, pissed and pumped with the sort of craziness only youth knows and which wars- and the bastards who start 'em-like to exploit.

And the bottom line there was that, old enemies or not, sometimes only vets could understand other vets and what they'd been through.

They were different, they made good targets. Good ones to vent your frustrations on. Because when people get scared, they formed into gangs and these gangs needed a common enemy. If they couldn't find one, they created one.

Freeman looked offended somehow."You simplify things, friend. Simplify and over-simplify, I think."
"I'm a simple sort," Cabe told him. "I'm hungry, I eat. I'm tired, I sleep. I'm thirsty, I drink. I see some sadistic ass-knocker out killing women, I piss lead into him and collect my money."

Cabe found he could barely stand. It always got like that. Going into a fight he was all ball and hot blood, coming out of it...just shaky and disoriented. Felt like his legs had no bones, were packed with wet straw.

Those words echoed and died in the silence.
No one moved.
No one spoke.
No one did a damn thing. Maybe they were waiting for some one else to do something. Herd instinct. They would all move...but not until they were led. That's how things worked in tense situations and this one was so tense, apprehension hung in the air thick as fog.

Hell had come calling... and some fool had let it in.

The beast pressed her to him like a long lost lover and she could smell the spicy, raw tang of the bloody pelt, felt herself being swallowed by those huge yellow green eyes full and leering like sacrificial moons. Loops of bloody drool dangled from the gnashing teeth...and a voice...not human nor animal, but somewhere in between said,"It's the skin medicine ma'am, it does things to a man..."

Cabe had seen a lot of death over the years. A lot of blood and flesh mangled up in the worse possible ways. He'd come to the conclusion long ago, that the human being...though possible God's finest creation... was also the most disgusting when you opened it up and saw the slimy, drippy things that made it operate.

I would definitely recommend this book. If you are into horror then you should definitely check this book out. I have added other titles by the author to my TBR and would definitely read them in the coming year.

You can get the book here:
If you have read the other books by author, please do recommend what you liked.
Happy reading.
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