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Primairy information

Author: Nicci French (actually Nicci Gerrard and Sean French)

Title: Beneath the skin

Subtitle: None

First published in: 2000

Number of pages: 360

Reading time: 5 hours

Account of my choice

Before I read this book, I have read a thriller of Nicci French in Dutch. I liked it and I thought that I could read another of their books in the original language. Once I had read it I wanted to put it on my list.

Expectations beforehand

Before I started reading this book, I had very positive expectations about this book, because I had already read another book of Nicci French and when I read the back of this book, I liked it very much. So I thought this was going to be a good book.

First reaction retrospectively

I find this book:

exciting: very

carrying along: very

pathetic: a bit

funny: a bit

realistic: very

imaginative: not

interesting: a bit

original: not

easy to understand: very

This book did not make me think

This book was worth reading

I like this book, because it is so horribly realistic, that you can easily project yourself in the story, because the story also happens in this time.


There is a man who is obsessed by women. He follows three of them everywhere and knows every detail of them and their lives. He sends them letters, announcing their death and then he enjoys watching them being afraid and suffer.

Zoë is the first woman. She comes from a place near Sheffield. Now she lives in London in a flat of her own, which she tries to sell. Zoë is a teacher at a primairy school. Her boyfriend is called Fred.

One day Zoë hits a pickpocket with a giant watermelon in his stomach, when he tries to rob a woman. She becomes a local hero. When Zoë receives her first threatening letter, she does not pay much attention to it, because she receives a lot of strange letters, since she became famous.

But when the second threatening letter arrives, Zoë becomes a little scared, so she decides to call the police. They come and have a look at the letters, but they reassure Zoë and tell her it is probably all a big joke.

Then Zoë gets a third letter. She feals threatened now and goes to the police station, insisting that they take her serious this time. She gets to see a psuychiatrist and some policemen are going to investigate this case.

Then the mother of a child from Zoë’s class shows Zoë the drawing-exercise book with a drawing in it of Zoë’s flat with Zoë lying on her bed, naked and dead. The police is called again and now the are really serious, because the flat is drawn with a lot of details. This can not be just a joke. Zoë is told that she can not see her boyfriend Fred any longer and Zoë moves in with Louise, a colleague of her. When they drive to Zoë’s flat to pick up some of her clothes, Zoë is being strangled in her flat.

Jennifer is the second woman. She is married with Clive and has three children, Josh, Harry and Christo. She lives in one of the better neighbourhoods of London in a house that they have just bought. When she receives her first letter, she thinks it is a joke , but her architect tells her to call the police, which she does.

They arrive immediately, with a lot of officers. Jennifer thinks they are overreacting, but she does not know about Zoë. The police does not show Jennifer the next letters that are arriving. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist is trying to help Jennifer.

When two of Jennifer’s sons, Josh and Harry, have gone on a holiday, Jenny receives a different letter. When she opens it, it is full of razor blades and Jenny gets badly hurt. When she is recovered, the police shows her the other letters that have arrived. Jenny becomes frightened and starts to drive crazy. Then, at a moment she is alone in the house, she also is being killed.

Nadia is the third. She is a children’s entertainer and still single. When she receives her fist letter, the police arrives immediately with a lot of officers. Nadia is being protected every day. Somehow she falls in love with the inspector investigating her case. She has sex with him for two times and then he appears to be married.

when Nadia is at a children’s party, entertaining them, she meets the nanny of the three children of Jennifer and she finds out that Jennifer also received the same letters she receives now and that she is dead.

When Nadia asks the police about it, she finds out about Zoë as well. Now she becomes scared, but she still wants to continue searcing for clues. She visits Fred and clive, without result. Then Josh comes to her flat suddenly. He tells her about Morris, a friend ofhis who also repaired Nadia’s computer once. That is something She and Jennifer have in common. So Morris becomes a suspect, but he appears to have a perfect alibi for the first murder.

Nadia apologizes to Morris and she and Josh and Morris become good friends. Meanwhile Naida keeps searching. She visits Zoë’s flat, and again with no result.

Then, Morris calls her and tells her he found out something about the murderer. Nadia goes to his flat. Over there she sees some pictures of Jennifer and Zoë, dead, and she realizes Morris is guilty. She beats him with an iron and calls the police.

When they arrive, Nadia explains everything to them: Morris was the one that sent all the letters and killed Jennifer, but he could not have killed Zoë; that was Fred.

Time and space

The story takes place in London in the summer of 1999. The story is told chronological.

The way of telling

The story is told in the first person. So you see the story through the eyes of Zoë, Jennifer, Nadia and Morris (in the beginning, when he describes his victims).


Zoë Haratounian she is the first victim. She is born in 1976 and lives in a flat in London, which she wants to sell. She is a teacher at a primary school (Laurier School).

Fred Zoë’s boyfriend. He is a gardener and he is also the one that appears to have killed Zoë.

Guy House-agent, that tries to sell Zoë’s flat.

Louise a friend and college of Zoë.

Pauline headmaster of Laurier School.

Nick Shale a man who is interested in Zoë’s flat.

DS Aldham a detective that helps Zoë find the man that sends her the letters.

DI Carthy a detective that also helps Zoë

Dr. Grace Shilling psychiatrist that helps Zoë

Graham, Duncan, Morris friends of Fred.

Jennifer Hintlesham second victim. She is born in 1961, married and has 3 children.

Clive: Jennifer’s husband.

Josh, Harry, Christo Jennifer’s children.

DCI Stuart Links leads the cases of Jennifer and Nadia.

DI Stadler investigates the cases of Jennifer and Nadia. Nadia falls in love with him.

WPC Lynne Burnett personal guard of Jennifer and Nadia.

Dr. Marsh, Gill Carlson two police officers that help in the cases of Jennifer and Nadia.

Morris Burnside friend of Josh, who repairs Nadia’s computer once. he also is a friend of Fred and he is the one that sends the letters and kills Jennifer.

Nadia Blake third victim. She also lives in a flat in London and is a children’s entertainer.

Zach Nadia’s entertaining partner.

Title, subtitle and motto

The title of this book is “beneath the skin”. This title is not so easy to be explained. I think, the title means that the murderer was so obsessed by his victims that he wanted to look beneath their skin and find out everything about them before killing them.

There is no subtitle.

There is no motto.

Final judgement

I find this a great book, truly worth reading, because it is really exciting to read. You can really project yourself in the story and I could not stop reading when I started. The reason why the story carries you along so much, is that there are three principal persons. When the first one died, I really wanted to know if the police learned something from it and if they would catch the murderer this time. Those three principal persons were also completely different and that makes the story less boring, because every time the principal person is different and behves different and has a completely different life. You just do not get enough time to be bored.

I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to read an English book, because it is not difficult to read and the story is really exciting, so this book will not bore you somehow.


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Echt een mooie samenvatting. Thanks!

4 jaar geleden