The City Under the Skin
The City Under the Skin
Farrar Straus Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374169046, 256pp.
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
A cartographic thriller with so many twists and turns it requires its own map
A cartography-obsessed misfit clerk from an antique map store in a district that's not quite trendy yet. A bold young woman chasing the answer to a question she can't quite formulate. A petty criminal hoping the parking lot he's just purchased is the ticket to a new life of respectability with his school-age daughter. A ruthless but vulnerable killer and his disgruntled accomplice. In "The City Under the Skin," it's not fate that will bind these characters together but something more concrete and sinister: the appearance of a group of mysterious women, their backs crudely and extensively tattooed with maps.
They have been kidnapped, marked, and released, otherwise unharmed. When one turns up on the doorstep of the map shop and abruptly bares her back, only to be hustled away by a man in a beat-up blue Cadillac, it's the misfit clerk Zak, pushed by his curious new friend Marilyn, who finds himself reluctantly entering a criminal underworld whose existence he'd prefer to ignore.
In this haunting literary thriller, Geoff Nicholson paints a deft portrait of a city in transition. His sharply drawn characters are people desperate to know where they are but scared of being truly seen. A meditation on obsession and revenge, a hymn to the joys of urban exploration, "The City Under the Skin" is a wholly original novel about the indelible scars we both live with and inflict on others.
Praise for The City Under the Skin: “In Nicholson’s atmospheric chiller, his sixteenth novel, he continues to focus on the obsessed outsiders who make his work both entertaining and compelling. Cartography expert Zak runs a map store in a verging-on-trendy neighborhood. When a young woman stumbles into his shop and shows him the crude tattoo on her back, he recognizes the outlines of an inexpertly drawn map. Before he can decipher the location depicted, she is whisked away by a tough guy driving a beat-up blue Cadillac. The only other witness, a feisty young woman outfitted in thrift-store clothes, determines that the two should investigate. And that investigation takes them to some scary places, including the rambling, industrial-looking digs of the obese and powerful local crime lord, Wrobleski. It seems that there are more women who have been extensively tattooed with crude maps. Can a nerdy, map-obsessed urban explorer take down the hard-core thugs who seem to be running a criminal underworld? Let’s hope so. With its fast-paced, dryly witty dialogue; looming, darkened cityscapes; wonderfully offbeat characters, including an enforcer with childcare problems; and metaphoric riffs on disorientation, this is a hugely entertaining crime novel.” — Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review) Praise for Geoff Nicholson “Nicholson rations out the surprises so that you’re never tempted to stop reading.” —The New York Times Book Review