Skin Stealer

Supernatural Thriller

Artwork: Asher Elbein,

36-year-old Jon Darke is one of only two survivors from a plane crash in which his wife and son die. No one seems to know about the other survivor Jon saw walking unharmed from the blazing wreckage. 15-year-old Anika Smith is already special, and could one day save the world. Something out there, in the place between life and death, wants to stop that happening and has summoned the Boo-Hag.

A Boo-Hag is stealing people’s skins in the village of Wormhole. Following a near-death experience, private investigator Jon Darke must find out why, assisted by the robust and opinionated Beth Cromer, the new vicar of Wormhole. ‘SKIN’, Jon Frank Marshall’s latest crime horror novel, is a macabre detective story mired in horror, black magic, tragedy, and a touch of romance.

Whilst in a coma, Jon visits the impossible Between-Worlds Hotel where dead people go before moving on. He learns he will be sent back to fulfil the wishes of the Nameless One, a ruling angel, and to keep Anika Smith alive. Martha Loveless, a fifteenth century witch, has been assigned to him. She tells Jon that he must find and protect crash survivor Anika until she acquires all her powers. An angel known as the Crimson King wants her dead and has sent a Boo-Hag to do its work. When Jon finally awakes, he knows little about Anika Smith and nothing of Kiera Chan, the creature that’s hunting her.

An Afro-American legend of the Gullah culture of South Carolina tells of evil souls who remain after death and become skinless, vampire-like creatures known as Boo-Hags, who take other people’s skin for a “ride”.

When a Boo-Hag determines a victim is suitable for riding, it gains access to the home and positions itself over the sleeping victim, sucking in their breath. This act renders the victim helpless and induces a deep dream-filled sleep.

Fiercely independent, sometimes foul-mouthed Beth Cromer is the new vicar of St Mark’s Church, in the Essex village of Wormhole. She discovers Jon living in the church tower and gets drawn into a macabre world beyond her understanding as she takes him under her wing. Soon after, Beth finds a fully dressed, skinless body in her churchyard, and the skin is duly discovered in a London warehouse, sitting beneath a dead young skinless woman, and wearing a condom. A demon is seen walking the streets of Wormhole and murders two locals with occult interests, before Jon shoots it in Beth’s kitchen using his father’s gun. Like it or not, Beth is forced to confront the Occult as more murders follow.

Anika has returned to London and is living on the streets, unaware of the danger she faces. She makes friends with a girl named Tom, who persuades her to visit the secret city far below London. There, Anika meets her cousin Baptiste, a gang leader using Obeah[1] magic. He’s aware of her growing powers and intends to use her. Anika is shocked to discover Baptiste’s cult is based on human sacrifice.

Business partner and friend Freddy Vegas travels to Barbados to learn more about Anika, whose stepfather died in the air crash. There he meets her grandmother Imelda, who is very sick. She will pass on her powers to Anika if the girl does not die first. She gives Freddy a magical amulet for Jon and tells him where Anika’s mother lives. When he returns, Freddy follows Kiera but is captured. Jon finds his notes and the amulet, but Anika’s mother has already been murdered by the Boo-Hag.

The bizarre deaths lead Jon and Beth deeper into the darkly magical world of Anika Smith. Anika can only die in the fires of hell, which exist within the Secret City far below London. Kiera – the Boo-Hag – needs to buy an abandoned lunatic asylum in Limehouse to gain access to the Secret City and its ancient magic. As Jon tracks her down, Kiera is forced to take Beth hostage after murdering Freddy. Jon meanwhile manages to locate Anika in the Secret City. As a last resort, Anika takes Jon and their pursuers back to the Between-Worlds hotel and into the nightmare land of the Crimson King for the final showdown. There’s one more problem. There are two Boo-Hags.


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