Durrant’s sophomore effort (Under Your Skin, 2014) tackles the complicated, dark, and disturbing mind of a manipulative and often abusive man who may—or may not—be dead.
Lizzie, a somewhat ordinary but sweet and unassuming British school librarian, has scraped up the courage to visit the lonely stretch of highway where her handsome husband, Zach, died in a horrific one-car accident. But on Valentine’s Day 2013—one year to the day since he died—when she makes that pilgrimage to leave flowers at the site, Lizzie finds someone’s beaten her there: a bouquet addressed "For Zach" and signed “Xenia” has already been left. Distraught, she decides to drive up to Zach's vacation cabin, where she expects to find a letter she had mailed there just before he died, telling him that she wanted a divorce. "Thank God he died before he read it," she thinks, planning to burn it. But when she gets to the cabin, she finds the letter scrunched up at the bottom of the garbage can. Convinced that Zach may still be alive and with a growing sense that someone is watching her, Lizzie starts digging into her controlling husband’s past and finds discrepancies that make her question everything she has ever known about the man she married, including his true identity. Meanwhile, intermittent chapters are narrated by Zach; they're dated over several years, leading up to the day of his accident. Durrant’s skill in creating a moody, menacing atmosphere shines in this tale, although likable, compliant Lizzie often comes across as both much too quick to trust people and way too slow to recognize when things are going sideways. Her low-key response in handling the very obviously disturbed teen who bullies her way into her life fits the character but also makes her seem like a bit of a dimwit rather than simply a milquetoast.
Despite the book's shortcomings, the author redeems herself in the end, displaying undeniable growth and sharpened literary skills since her first novel.