Picks and Pans Review: Beneath the Skin

updated 05/29/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Nicci French

Page-turner of the week

Imagine someone knowing you better than you know the back of your own hand. Literally. Zoe Haratounian, a young schoolteacher living in North London, opens a letter one day to read that someone has been watching her so closely, he has noticed a nicotine stain on her finger that she never knew existed. "Zoe, with your white teeth and your one small dimple when you smile," she reads on, "you will not be young for much longer."

In this latest mystery by French (a pseudonym for a married pair of British journalists), three women learn how utterly eerie it is to be watched from every angle. Jennifer, a former hand model and mother of three, and Nadia, an entertainer at children's parties, have nothing more in common with Zoe, it seems, than their petite figures. But they are all forced to confront their ardent admirer's voracious threats and must also put up with the leering eyes of the police. Asked intrusive questions and living under constant surveillance, they end up feeling victimized by cops and criminal alike.

Suspenseful from the start and ending with a brilliant twist, Beneath the Skin is a tale of sheer terror. When one character pulls down her bedroom shades, the reader can't help but cringe, knowing what's waiting outside. (Mysterious Press, S24.95)

Bottom Line: Goose bumps all over


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