Plot Summary: When a mafia princess falls for a two-bit hoodlum an unhappy don plays some rough games in order to separate the two lovers.
Sean O’Donnell is a man who always keeps his word, especially to a lady. His good-for-nothing old man left his mother flat. When she gets ill, Sean assures her that he will never be like his father; if he makes a promise he will keep it, no matter what the cost. When local mob boss Mario Torretta’s daughter Nicole falls for Sean, the Don is not pleased, and makes it known that Sean is not good enough for his princess. However, Nicole is in love and begs Sean to stick by her. Once Sean gives his word, no amount of pressure from the Don will weaken his resolve. Sean will endure and persevere to keep his promise to Nicole, and to his mother.
Reservoir Dogs meets Romeo and Juliet in this emotionally charged, fast-moving crime drama for fans of Dennis Lehane, Andrew Vachss and Charlie Huston.
Adam Pepper writes with zeal, verve, and a steak knife to the throat.
-Scott Nicholson, Author of Liquid Fear
Review: Skin Games is a revenge story of the highest order that makes The Godfather seem tame in comparison. As I think I’ve established by now in my book reviews, I’m a sucker for mob fiction, especially if it has supernatural elements, but even if it doesn’t (huge mobster flick fan), but for some reason, because this is a horror novel, or because of Adam Pepper’s previous book that I read and reviewed, Symphony of Blood, I expected there to be supernatural elements mixed in with the mob plot. And although it’s a straight mob fiction story, it’s still a very good one.
Things get off to an exciting start, and the tone as I read through the novel reminded me of Goodfellas, not in the sense of a pastiche or an homage—the work stands on its own—but the voice had the same Ray Liotta quality, and I heard him in my head quite often through the protagonist Sean’s words. As the novel progresses, Sean “Skin” aka Shamrock, gets a more distinct voice that’s more authentic and his own.
I also liked that Pepper didn’t try too hard with Sean’s dialogue and didn’t give him any exaggerated Irish dialect or a speech tag that would have come off as obnoxious. Sean is an interesting character—there’s not really much that’s remarkable about him at first glance—he seems like just any other ordinary mafia thug/enforcer/collector, but there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye. Although he isn’t what I would call necessarily unique, he’s a lovable character with his own foibles, trying to make it in this world without getting killed, basically. It’s kind of like Princess Bride but as a mob story.
Sean is in love with the daughter of the most dangerous mobster in town (also Sean’s boss), and she loves him, but the Don is very adamant that Sean not see his daughter anymore. It’s absolutely an “underdog overcomes the odds and perseveres despite huge obstacles” type of story, and I’m a big fan of those, particularly the way that Pepper has written this one.
The character development for Sean is great—I do, however, think that although the mafia generals/enforcers weren’t stereotypical to the point of comedy, some of the minor characters could have used a bit more fleshing out, and the same goes for Sean’s girlfriend, Nicole.
Still, any fan of mobster fiction will enjoy this book, as well as horror, crime, mystery, and thriller readers. This is the perfect kind of novel to recommend/buy for a reluctant male reader who enjoys violent gangster movies but isn’t so big on books, whether that be a high-school aged teenage boy or an adult boyfriend.
I think that it’s a sad ending, and I would have liked to see more justice done in some ways, but in others, I think that’s the only way Pepper could have ended things, and he did a great job.