Beneath the Skin

Nicci French, Author Mysterious Press $40 (384p) ISBN 978-0-89296-726-1
French delivers a powerfully intricate follow-up to her first novel (Killing Me Softly) in this psychological thriller. Zoe Haratounian (a pre-school teacher), Jennifer Hintlesham (a former model and mother of three) and Nadia Blake (a children's entertainer) are all petite, uniquely pretty women. They also are all involved in, or getting out of, bad relationships with men, and they are all the targets of a murderous stalker who haunts his victims through disturbingly personal letters. The pattern established in the opening pages of the novel seems simple: a woman begins receiving love letters laced with threatening remarks; she notifies the local (British) police, who investigate and provide protection; and soon she is killed right under their noses. Told in rotating first- and third-person narrative stretches, the novel moves quickly forward as the women describe their growing unease and the stalker explains how thrilling it is to see his victims crumble under the barrage of brutal, eeerie letters (""She gets weaker and smaller. I look at her and I think to myself, I did this.""). Meanwhile Nadia, disillusioned with the cops, attempts to solve the crime herself. By getting to know the families and friends of the other dead women, she discovers clues that lead her right into the killer's hands. The book concludes with a stunning plot twist and demonstrates, as did her first novel, that French knows how to carry a chilling situation to frightening extremes. BOMC main selection. (May) FYI: Nicci French is the pseudonym for a pair of British journalists, Nicci Gerrard, who works for the Observer, and Sean French, who writes for the New Statesman.
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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