What if the nightmares are actually memories?
It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?
The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts—there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?
A year after her husband was brutally murdered while jogging in Central Park, and after suffering a mental breakdown, Poppy has started seeing fragments of what happened to her in the weeks before and after Jack’s death. The problem is that she doesn’t know what’s real and what isn’t, what’s a dream and what’s the reality. And who is the mysterious hooded man that’s started following her?
Told in two parts, Part One of Under My Skin focuses on Poppy’s unreliability, the dreams, and frankly, some risky and ill-advised behavior. We aren’t really sure what’s going on and we can’t trust Poppy to know either. Her dreams flutter between the macabre and the heartbreaking as she conjures up alternate versions of the day Jack died. The drugs she’s being fed by a well-meaning friend, often downed with a fair bit of alcohol, lend to the uncertainty. Blackouts mean that even when we think Poppy is out and about and not dreaming, we can’t be entirely sure. It can be a little repetitive, and you want to reach through the page and shake the living heck out of both Poppy and her best friend, Layla, but it works. We’re given plenty of reason to disbelieve Poppy and plenty of reasons to suspect other players.
Part Two focuses on Poppy’s decision to take control. Even though she’s still engaging in risky behavior, she becomes a lot more reliable and everything starts to come into focus, leaving the reader less confused. The tables definitely turn, throwing everything we thought in Part One into doubt.
Under My Skin is a well-written book and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found the unreliability, the questionable memories and the confusion between dreams and reality a refreshing take. With plenty of unreliability and some skillful misdirects, we’re kept guessing from beginning to end. Just when I thought I’d figured it out, something else happened to throw me off my game - for the record, my guess was slightly off, so that’s a definite plus!
While I’m not sure this one qualifies as a true psychological thriller, it will keep you guessing all the way through, so it’s one I’d certainly recommend.
I was provided this book for free by Park Row (via Netgalley) in return for my honest opinion. Please note that some links in this book may be affiliate links to help us keep the lights on :)