This review contains mild spoilers, though I tried to allude rather than reveal.
What made (makes) this book so beautiful to me is twofold.
1. The casual elegance of the writing. Nicci French (for the purpose of just plain not feeling like typing out two names, I will ignore that this is a pseudonym and just pretend it’s one author) is brilliant at sketching characters that feel like real people and for using spare, simple and yet beautiful prose. I really love her style and always have. It’s especially evident in her earlier works and now in the Frieda Klein series.
2. The relationship between the three women, invisible, like a thread – but so strong that not even death shakes it. I thought this was a haunting river through the novel.
Beneath the Skin is not my favourite of French’s novels (that award goes to Land of the Living, but it is one of her best, in my opinion.
Zoe, Jenny and Nadia are three women with a horrible connection.
Each have been targeted by a killer – he sends them notes telling them how he is going to kill them. The tale begins with Zoe, a tiny, blonde schoolteacher with a suffocating flat she can’t get rid of, an army of friends and a spot of fame after stopping a thief with a gigantic watermelon.
What eventually happens to Zoe is a shocker … the authors show you that anything is possible.
We also meet Jenny, a rich and very polished woman having her house completely gutted and remodeled, sending her normally very organized life into chaos. When the killer begins sending her obscene notes, she doesn’t think very much of it. Until the police arrive.
Finally, the thread unspools until we meet Nadia. Nadia was my favourite character in the book – I think because she’s so normal and doesn’t take any BS and she works as a Clown. I mean, how cool. As soon as Nadia receives the notes, the police descend, and she begins to look suspiciously at every person in her life – she knows the killer is close, but who? And why?
Beneath the Skin eloquently and skillfully explores the very nature of fear and how alone a person can feel in the midst of such chaos. It’s not really about WHO the murderer is (this is evident by the middle of the book) it’s the relationships, the sourness of disappointment, the suffocation of environment and the heartbreaking ache of grief.