In a world where Fey and human are one hundred years into an uneasy coexistence, after a mysterious convergence between Faerie and the mortal world, Laura Blackstone is a public relations director for the Fey Guild; druid Janice Crawford has been seconded to Washington DC SWAT to help out in operations where magical assistance is required; and Mariel Tate is one of the top officials at Intersec, the International Global Security Agency which deals with international criminal threats: they are also the same person. Operating under glamours - illusions which allow her to appear as someone else - Laura has crafted a range of different identities which allow her to work in Washington's law enforcement community and gather information as one of Intersec's most secret agents. It's a demanding life, needing constant care and attention to keep her various lives straight, and like all secret agents she faces the risk of burning out from the stresses of the job, but she feels she's doing good for both her people, and humanity.
A seemingly routine outing as Janice, however, to support SWAT in raiding a drug factory suspected of having Brownie back-up, ends up with Laura encountering a far more powerful opponent, an Inverni Fairy, and being shot, seemingly by one of her own team. It appears she has stumbled into something far more dangerous: a conspiracy reaching into both the human senate and the depths of Fey politics, and which has its roots in a long hidden injustice. It's going to take all of Laura's identities, and magical skills to stay alive and unravel the plot before it can reach its deadly climax.
Skin Deep is, we are told, the first of a series of novels Mark Del Franco has planned featuring Laura Blackstone, and in many ways it does seem to be setting the scene: there's the introduction of a variety of characters and hints at the development of a relationship for Laura, the plot which leaves various elements unresolved for the future, and a great deal of general scene-setting, none of which, it has to be said, Del Franco allows to get in the way of keeping the plot moving, covering everything in just under 300 pages.
As urban fantasies go, Skin Deep seems to have all the right ingredients: the blending of mythical beings with the modern world, a courageous yet isolated protagonist, a developing romance, nefarious plots and heroic deeds, and yet I have to say I found it somewhat uninvolving. Only Laura is well-developed as a character, and she still doesn't have much to distinguish her - even the hints that she may be have an incipient drink-problem seem more like a standard secret-agent quirk than a genuine character trait. Added to that, the plot, which has her doing a great deal of groping in the dark, while dodging assassination attempts on her various identities fails to really grip. On the other hand, setting the novel in the bear-pit of Washington, and making at least some of Laura's conflicts political rather than physical is a novel idea, and the suggestions of further developments to come in the history and political relations between the Fey is enough to excite some interest - and there's no doubt that it is an undemanding read and a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours if you're an urban fantasy fan.
Overall, then, I'm not sure whether I'll be obtaining the second volume of Laura's adventures when it comes out - most likely the answer will depend on whether I've got any other new purchases on my shelf at the time, which I want to read more.