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(I've got you) Under my skin
Beneath the Skin - Nicci French
Member Name: kirstymack80
Beneath the Skin - Nicci French
Date: 15/05/05, updated on 25/05/05 (1530 review reads)
Advantages: gripping from the start, likeable central characters
Disadvantages: spoiled ending
* The story *
Zoe has recently arrived in London to teach, amidst a scorching summer. She accidentally becomes a heroine when she witnesses a mugging, and having recently bought a watermelon for her schoolkids, she hits the attacker with her shopping and becomes headline news.
Soon she is receiving ‘fan’ letters from people praising her for her bravery. But then the letters stop – all but one hand delivered one that is, which takes on a decidedly sinister tone. ‘Dear Zoe, When does someone like you, young and pretty and healthy, become frightened of dying? I am watching you. I am not going to go away’.
Zoe throws the letter away. But that is not the end of it. Far from it.
* What’s good *
From the beginning this book draws you in. Peppered with paragraphs in italic writing, the reader is always aware that the anonymous man is watching Zoe, and this in itself is frightening as the detailed descriptions of her are told. ‘She gets weaker and smaller. I look at her and I think to myself, I did this’. One can almost imagine him smiling, knowing that he’s making her insecure and anxious.
Also there are many possibilities of who the ‘baddie’ could be. Zoe is selling her flat and has many strangers flitting in and out – that and the fact she has an uncaring, fairly new boyfriend makes the suspect list fairly lengthy. Therefore Mack was not having an easy job of even trying to draw up a shortlist!
Told in three parts, the sections are devoted to three women – Zoe, Jennifer and Nadia. The other two women also become targets for the would-be killer and each woman tells the story from her point of view.
Zoe is the frightened one, the new girl in town. Jennifer is a wife and mother of three boys, hassled with her ongoing home renovations and receiving threatening letters isn’t part of her plan. Nadia, the children’s entertainer and some time magician, is the strong, resilient one, determined not to let the threats destroy her but to expose the person penning the poison letters.
What links the three women together are the ongoing investigation team, whose tireless efforts promise to bring the stalker to justice – a man who has thrust himself into these three women’s lives and continues to harass them right under the nose of the authorities.
* What’s not so good *
Strangely, the ‘baddie’ is unveiled around half way through the book. I found this a little annoying as it almost made me want to stop reading. However I did continue until the end and I did enjoy the book, although this somewhat detracted from the element of surprise.
To this end, the reader can easily see the ending coming from a million miles away and for someone who enjoys trying to figure out what’s what in a thriller, this definitely was a big no no!
* Other books by Nicci French *
The Safe House
Killing Me Softly
Land of the Living
The Memory Game
The Red Room
Catch Me When I Fall
* Other info *
RRP £6.99 – play.com £5.49 delivered
Paperback, 384 pages
Published by Penguin
* Verdict *
This is a taut thriller, cleverly executed with three strong central women characters. I liked the way in which it was written, from three different points of view and having little glimpses of the baddie thrown in teasingly every so often. It is a page turner and the suspense is kept throughout.
As I am new to Nicci French’s writing (apart from seeing the film ‘Killing Me Softly’ which was based on one of their books) I would definitely choose another book by the partnership. I read this in a day while at my parents’ house so it was a free read. Chapters are split at frequent levels and it passed a few hours and kept me gripped from page one. I didn’t find it overly frightening – probably because the violence is kept minimal and tended to fade out to another chapter.
I will take one star away for the strange decision of uncloaking the bad guy a tad too early. Overall it’s cleverly done but also fairly annoying as the reader feels that there’s ‘nothing left’ after this. There’s also a slightly pointless love affair which is over before it’s begun and only marginally distracts the reader into thinking something’s amiss. That was done a bit scrappily and didn’t really ring true –it’s designed to throw the reader off scent but doesn’t work!
I wouldn’t place this particular book up there with the likes of Val McDermid, who really gets inside the killer’s mind, sometimes disturbingly so, or the fast paced action of a James Patterson novel. But overall if you like crime and thrillers, you’ll probably enjoy this. It does indeed get under your skin.
Thanks for reading.