Beneath the Skin

by Nicci French

Nicci-French-Beneath-the-Skin-mysteryMurderers are often the least interesting characters in a murder mystery. Impulsive or obsessive, they believe their own needs are more important than their victim’s.

In BENEATH THE SKIN, author Nicci French (or rather authors Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) turns the tables on the typical mystery. She tells the story from the perspective of the victims . . . up to their last moment.

There are three victims in this book, although only two are killed.

Zoe Haratounian, a primary school teacher, attracts public attention when she uses a watermelon she was bringing to her class to stop a purse-snatching thief on the street.

Jenny Hintlesham is the well-to-do mother of three sons with an £800,000 house and garden full of workman turning it into a showplace under her sharp direction. Her husband Clive is an attorney working long hours in the city and growing more distant all the time.

Nadia Blake is a children’s entertainer, a clown who juggles poorly and twists balloons into animals.

Zoe was killed in her ratty flat next door to a pub on a busy street. She’d been trying to sell the flat for months. Jenny, in the shadow of middle age, is killed in her bedroom as she packs to fly to the States to collect her two oldest boys from camp.

All three women live in north London, although in widely different economic circumstances. All three were receiving threatening notes from someone who made it clear he (or she) had them under close observation. They had no common acquaintances and their paths never crossed.

The same set of police officials are working the cases: Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Links, Detective Inspector Cameron Stadler, Detective Sergeant Aldham, and Officer Lynne Burnett, who provides a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police presence for the three women. Psychiatrist Grace Schilling is brought in to profile the the poison-pen letter writer.

The murders of Zoe and Jenny and the clear threat to Nadia are baffling. French has cleverly planted the clues right under the reader’s nose. But as Dr. Schilling could readily tell us, we see what we look for.

French keeps you guessing. Zoe, Jenny and Nadia are all either likeable or inspire compassion. As the police fail repeatedly to identify the killer, the suspense rises.

If you liked this book, you might like author Nicci French’s series featuring psychoanalyst Frieda Klein, which begins with BLUE MONDAY.  Frieda Klein bears more than a passing resemblance to Grace Schilling.

About the Author: Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard [1958 – ] and Sean French [1959 – ])

Nicci French is the pen name of a pair of married writers who specialize in psychological thrillers.

Nicola “Nicci” Gerrard grew up in Worcestershire, studied English literature at Oxford University and then earned an MPhil at Sheffield University. She taught literature in Los Angeles and London, founded a women’s magazine and then became a freelance journalist.

Julian Sean French is the son of a radio producer and film critic father and a Swedish-born mother. He studied English literature at Oxford. While there, he won a young writers contest organized by Vogue magazine. He then went on to become a journalist. From 1987 to the end of 2000, he wrote a column for the New Statesman. On his own, he wrote the novel START FROM HERE (2004).

The two never met while at Oxford. Gerrard married, had two children and divorced. Gerrard and French married in 1990 and have two daughters. Since 1999, they have lived in Suffolk, England.

As of 2020, they had written 23 novels as Nicci French. French has written six books including biographies of actors Bridget Bardot and Jane Fonda and novelist and playwright Patrick Hamilton. Gerrard has written eight novels on her own.


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