Three women fear the same deadly stalker in this accomplished followup to French's elegant debut, Killing Me Softly (1999). Zoe, Jenny, and Nadia are all small and blond, attractive without being in the least bit beautiful, and live in north London. On the surface, that's where the similarities end. Their stalker, however, tells them he sees ``beneath the skin.'' He knows their thoughts, he knows their lives, and he both loves and hates them for what he knows. The sequence begins with Zoe, who sets it in motion when she interrupts a pursesnatching by whacking the thief with the oversized watermelon she happens to be carrying. The escapade piques public attention, and among the flood of mail Zoe receives is a letter that reads in part, ``when does someone like you . . . come frightened of dying?'' As the letters keep on, Zoe begins to recognize the handwriting and to shudder at their intensifying menace. She takes her worries to the police, who shrug them off. By the time that decision is reversed, it's Jenny's turn to shudder. And then Nadia's, which means it's much too late.
The shaky plotting isn’t up to Killing Me Softly, but in terms of writing and characterization this is as strong as all but the very best. (BookoftheMonth Club main selection)