From the Publisher
“Young and lovesick, Lee Martin's low-rent heroines live the stuff of country music. Earnest and innocent, they get caught up in trailer park romances and what Alice Hoffman called practical magic. Break the Skin is a gossipy, rollicking Witches of Wal-Mart.”--Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen
“I was worried for these characters as I'd worry for my own friends. The women want normal things--connection, stability--but get in their own way of finding peaceful lives. This is a suspenseful, engaging book.”--Alice Elliott Dark
“Mr. Martin is a top-notch craftsman…what is most remarkable about BREAK THE SKIN is its restrained tone and the author’s generosity toward his very needy characters. His sympathies for them rarely seem to wane, even when they are harboring criminals, conjuring hexes or plotting murder.”- The New York Times
“South of Scandinavia, there are fewer icicles and serial killers, but no lack of sinister intrigue. Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin’s latest, Break the Skin, is a Lucinda Williams ballad of a small-town love affair—a teenage dropout, a nameless stranger—gone horribly wrong.” – Vogue.com
“Martin…gets the claustrophobia of small town life just right. With their oh-what-might-have-been voices, these women win our hearts.”- The Plain Dealer
“Martin, whose kidnap novel The Bright Forever (2005) was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, expertly applies shades of James Cain–like noir to modern story that might have been inspired by one of the Lucinda Williams songs on this book's soundtrack. Black magic, daughters cursed by the loss or absence of their fathers, post traumatic stress syndrome, small-town secrecy and lies, pre-teen voyeurism: Welcome to life 'on the other side of right thinking.' An intoxicating small-town thriller that quickly gets under your skin.”--Kirkus Reviews
"What we really want from our summer reading is a chance to escape ourselves, to disappear for a while into the lives of other people. Break the Skin allows us to do that, while delivering a fast, suspenseful read." – Blogcritics.com
"Disaffected teenager Laney has no one in the world but the older Delilah, whom she clings to like a raft. Then the police start asking Laney questions that link her to the sadder-but-wiser Miss Baby, who thinks she’s finally found true love with a gentle man who can’t remember his own name, and the story of a wrenching crime emerges."--Library Journal
“Provocative… Crackling with dark deeds and bad intentions, Martin snakes through the lives of the desperate without casting pity.”--Publishers Weekly
“Carrying an almost archetypal resonance, this well-crafted tale of romantic desperation feels as sad and inevitable as an old murder ballad and should have an appeal beyond readers of serious fiction.” – Library Journal
Alternating sections between three women in southern Illinois and a tattoo artist in Texas, this is the story of a lonely "clan of women who'd do almost anything for love." Laney Volk is a shy teenager in a small southern Illinois town who falls out with her mother and goes to live with an older woman, Delilah Dade, in the trailer she shares with another woman named Rose MacAdow. Both Delilah and Rose become captivated by Tweet, the lead singer of a band passing through town, while Laney becomes friends with Lester Stipp, a hanger-on with the band. Months later, Lester mysteriously turns up in Texas, where he's taken in by equally lonely tattoo artist Miss Baby. The rivalry between Delilah and Rose for Tweet's affection turns bitter after he chooses Rose, with the novel's shocking final confrontation changing all of their lives permanently. VERDICT Carrying an almost archetypal resonance, this well-crafted tale of romantic desperation feels as sad and inevitable as an old murder ballad and should have an appeal beyond readers of serious fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 12/6/10.]—Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MA
A crime of passion, thought to be committed by a traumatized Vietnam veteran, links a lovesick Illinois girl with an equally needy young Mexican-American woman in Texas.
Laney, a shy and scrawny 19-year-old, works at a Wal-Mart in a small town in southeastern Illinois. She shares a trailer with two workmates: sultry Delilah, a perennially mistreated loser at love now approaching 40, and Rose, "a big woman with a big heart" suspected of practicing witchcraft. Things are looking up when Delilah, who packs a .38 Special, romantically targets a bar-band rocker named Tweet. But when Tweet takes up with Rose, all hell breaks loose. The Vietnam vet, for whom Laney falls, is Lester, Tweet's bow-legged, sweet-tempered roadie, who is so haunted by his killing of innocent civilians during the war that he enters fugue states of memory loss. One of them takes him to Denton, Tex., where Betty Ruiz, "Miss Baby," the owner of a tattoo shop, claims him off the street. She convinces him his name is Donnie True and they're a couple. They fall in love for real and plan their future together. But they, too, are engulfed by violence when her brother Pablo is punished for stealing money from Slam Dent, his partner in a cattle-stealing scheme. Told in flashback through the alternating voices of Laney and Miss Baby, the book overdoes its tattoo metaphor in evoking "lives festering just beneath the skin." But Martin, whose kidnap novel The Bright Forever (2005) was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, expertly applies shades of James Cain–like noir to a modern story that might have been inspired by one of the Lucinda Williams songs on this book's soundtrack. Black magic, daughters cursed by the loss or absence of their fathers, post traumatic stress syndrome, small-town secrecy and lies, pre-teen voyeurism: Welcome to life "on the other side of right thinking."
An intoxicating small-town thriller that quickly gets under your skin.
As in his previous novels Mr. Martin demonstrates a fondness for shifting perspectives and time frames, and he performs the neat trick of providing an edifying read that also succeeds as genre fiction…what is most remarkable about Break the Skin is its restrained tone and the author's generosity toward his very needy characters. His sympathies for them rarely seem to wane, even when they are harboring criminals, conjuring hexes or plotting murder.
The New York Times