Neil Bartlett (2 stars)

Skin Lane (Serpent’s Tail)


Author and theatre director Neil Bartlett explores the link between repressed sexual desire and social envy in this disappointing follow-up novel to the Whitbread-shortlisted Mr Clive and Mr Page.

London, 1967. Mr F is a furrier, who has plied his trade on London’s Skin Lane for some 30 years. Quiet, punctilious and conscientious, his careful routine unravels when he begins having a recurring nightmare of finding a naked youth dead in his bathroom. He finds himself attracted to his young apprentice, and begins to guiltily fantasise about taking a knife to the boy’s beautiful hide.

Bartlett’s detailed imagining of the bygone fur trade proves interminable padding for a rather thin plot. The depiction of Mr F’s inner torment relies heavily on an accusatory second person voice, while the resurrected archetype of the ‘murderous gay’ appears somewhat antiquated in 2007.

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