Beneath the Skin, by Nicci French

Three separate women receive threatening notes from someone who's obviously been paying them close attention, saying that he's going to kill them.

Hmm.. third NF book I've read (after Killing me Softly and Secret Smile) and as in each of the other two, we have first person female protagonist vs. looney male stalker/murderer. This one is slightly different: the three stories are told in series and the authors have obviously tried to make each character distinctive. Also, as they point out in their interview at the end of the book, it's slightly unusual to have a first person narrator who is killed, which is what happens to the first two characters.

I'm not sure that NF is that good at characterisation. Of the three women in the book, the first and third are not that dissimilar, and both are rather like the leading characters in the previous NF books I've read - single women, somewhat lacking in self-confidence, having come out of not-quite-satisfactory relationships, but with dependable best mates who are prepared to let you stay for as long as you like. For the second woman, they've obviously tried hard for something different: she's married, worried about appearances, her husband's affair, and getting her house extension built properly. (Those are perhaps more descriptions of the situations they find themselves in, rather than personality traits, but I didn't feel really that the personalities came out much).

Contrast that with Elmore Leonard, who somehow manages to come up with characters who are distinctive and unique, not by describing their lives and thoughts and aspirations, but by having them talk. No comparison.

Anyway, while the writing style is maybe not that fantastic, there is something to be said for these books - they're easy and enjoyable to read. So despite having read three now, all of which seem to be cut from the same cloth, I wouldn't mind reading more. Probably wouldn't bother with this one again though.

Completed : 21-Dec-2008

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