Zoe, Jenny and Nadia, different ages, different walks of life, all receive anonymous notes saying they are going to be killed. Their lives are turned upside down as the police search for what has attracted the attention of a killer.
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"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 FlynnAbout the Author:
Nicci French is the pseudonym of the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are now ten novels by Nicci French, most recently Secret Smile, Catch Me When I Fall, Losing You and Until It's Over (hardback). Find out more about the books and the authors at www.niccifrench.co.uk.
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