When you love two series that an author has written and you discover that he's written a third, you're going to go out of your way to find the books in that unsampled series. That's what I did when I found out that favorite author Timothy Hallinan had written the Simeon Grist series well before I fell in love with his others featuring Poke Rafferty and Junior Bender.
What I found in Skin Deep was a beginning effort by someone who was trying to make his writing fit into the standard P.I. format. Skin Deep has its problems, but it shows a lot of promise and hints of Hallinan's later heroes, Poke and Junior.
The pacing of the book was slow at times and could've been tightened up, and although I liked Simeon, there wasn't enough background on him. (Probably rule #1 in the P.I. author's handbook: Never give too much away about your hero.) I have to be honest here and say that what I disliked most about the book are things that I usually don't like about P.I. novels-- everyone seems to be a sleezeball, the violence, and that arch tone that makes me grind my teeth. So if you love the standard private eye novel, chances are you're going to enjoy this one a lot more than I did.
What I did enjoy was catching so many glimpses of the writer Hallinan was soon to become. He is a writer who doesn't really fit within the confines of any one standard genre, and it took him a little time to figure out how to turn things to his (and our) advantage. The unconventional-- yet very satisfying-- solution reminded me of things Poke Rafferty and Junior Bender would do in future books. And-- like Junior Bender-- Simeon Grist knows Hollywood gossip, legends and history. On the surface, Simeon Grist looks and maybe even sounds like one of those 1930s tough guy gumshoes, but down deep he has the soft heart and smarts of those two Hallinan characters I've already mentioned.
Skin Deep may not have been a completely satisfying read for me, but I did enjoy going back to see one of my favorite writer's "origins."