French, Nicci Beneath the Skin

ISBN 13: 9780140281064

Beneath the Skin

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9780140281064: Beneath the Skin

One day you receive an anonymous note informing you that you're going to be killed. It might be a cruel joke or a hoax. But it isn't. What do you do? Three women - Zoe, Jenny and Nadia - of different ages, from different walks of life, rich, poor, married, single, happy, sad, face the same terrible threat. Three lives are turned upside down, secrets are exposed, relationships strained and shattered. And amid all the fear and threats, victims find themselves becoming the accused as the policesearch for what they have done, where they have been, to attract the unrelenting attention of someone who wants to kill them. And finally each of them must face one cruel question: which is stronger, the desire to live or the desire to kill?

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Review:

"When she laughs, she makes a pealing sound, like a doorbell . If I told her I loved her, she would laugh at me like that. She would think I was not serious. That is what women do. They turn what is serious and big into a small thing, a joke. Love is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. One day, soon, she will understand that."
Zoe, a pretty blonde schoolteacher. Jenny, a former hand model turned model wife and mother. Nadia, an irrepressible free spirit who entertains at children's parties. Three women living in different parts of London, grappling with different problems, sheltering different dreams--their lives and narratives linked only by the singular madness of a sadistic stalker. As they move slowly through the sweltering heat of summer, someone is sending these women letters that let each know she is being watched, studied and loved from afar--even unto death.

Beneath the Skin is a spooky, highly effective psychological thriller. Initially, the women refuse, as do the police, to take the threats seriously--they are happy, they are inviolable; surely these letters are the work of a harmless crank. But the novel watches Zoe, Nadia and Jenny move from blithely insouciant denial, to frustration, to creeping terror, and finally to the stark realisation that neither they nor anyone else will prevent this killer from destroying them. French skilfully evokes the insidiousness with which the letters invade the women's lives, straining and shattering relationships, pushing each toward fearful insanity. Perhaps the novel's greatest appeal lies in its mordant irony: not only do the stalker's threats push and fester "beneath the skin", but they also draw out the flaws and terrors that are already there. French sketches the women's weaknesses and fears with merciless accuracy, stripping them naked long before the killer arrives to finish what his letters have begun.

The author's talent for psychological portraiture is, in fact, so great as to undermine, however slightly, the novel itself. We become so aware of the women, of their responses, of their needs, that the actual murders arrive as an almost superfluous intrusion. We respect the demands of the genre--a thriller needs thrills, after all--but wistfully regret the loss of the victims, even as we guiltily acknowledge our own voyeuristic culpability in their disintegration. --Kelly Flynn

About the Author:

Nicci French is a journalist and lives in Suffolk. She has written six novels, of which this is the fourth.

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French, Nicci
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