Skin Deep

Skin Deep

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by Gary Braver
     
 

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Someone is killing the most alluring women of Boston. Someone whose keen eye for beauty masks a twisted mind. Someone who insinuates himself into his victims’ lives and leaves them with nothing but an elegant black stocking knotted around their necks.

Homicide detective Lt. Steve Markarian must stop the killer before another vulnerable woman is

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Overview

Someone is killing the most alluring women of Boston. Someone whose keen eye for beauty masks a twisted mind. Someone who insinuates himself into his victims’ lives and leaves them with nothing but an elegant black stocking knotted around their necks.

Homicide detective Lt. Steve Markarian must stop the killer before another vulnerable woman is sacrificed—possibly even his own estranged wife.

Beset with loneliness and addictions, Steve pursues leads all over greater Boston—from the haunts of blue-blooded Brahmins, to seedy strip joints, to mansions by the sea, to the halls of prestigious universities, to the offices of his own precinct—and to the recesses of his own heart, only to discover that he himself may actually be the killer.

In this stunning psychological thriller, bestselling author Gary Braver explores the nature of beauty, how women may strive to achieve it, and the forbidden yearnings that kill in its name.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this well-crafted thriller from Braver (Flashback), Lt. Steve Markarian, a Boston police detective with marital and alcohol problems, investigates the strangling death of Terry Farina, whose naked body was found in her bedroom with no signs of a struggle or sexual activity. Is it suicide, accident or murder? Teasing flashbacks to the 1970s chronicle the incestuous ordeal of a disturbed New Hampshire boy at the hands (and breasts) of his sexy, Bible-thumping stepmother. An extraneous subplot concerns Markarian's possible role in the first murder he investigates. More compelling is the relationship Markarian's wife, Dana, develops with a plastic surgeon, Aaron Monks, who enters her life just as the Markarians are contemplating divorce. The pace accelerates toward a climax whose revelations of extensive evildoing may strike some readers as farfetched. Still, fans of psychological suspense with a medical angle will be amply rewarded. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
New York Times bestselling author on Skin Deep Douglas Preston
An outstanding medical thriller, sharply plotted, with crisp dialogue, intelligent characters—and a premise that will freeze your blood. Gary Braver is one hell of a good writer. Wow!
New York Times bestselling author of Body Surfing Anita Shreve
As a long-time devotee of literate thrillers, I can't say enough about Skin Deep. I found it well written, compelling, and unputdownable. Gary Braver manages some clever twists and turns in this terrific new book.
New York Times bestselling author of The Judas Str James Rollins
Skin Deep cuts to the bone, a nerve-jangling thriller that combines the horror of The Silence of the Lambs with the medical terror of Robin Cook. Here is a novel that will make you question your own reflection in a mirror. As terrifying as it is ingenious, the book is destined to become a classic of suspense and horror.
New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End Jacquelyn Mitchard
Put off that tummy tuck until you read Gary Braver's new chiller, Skin Deep. And don't forget the down comforter, because the latest form this medical-mystery master will turn your spine into a Popsicle.
New York Times bestselling author of The First Pat Michael Palmer
Skin Deep is a fascinating, frightening tour de force—a riveting mix of medical thriller, forensic puzzler, and intense psychological drama. If you haven't been introduced to Gary Braver's lean, mean prose and masterfully drawn characters, this is the time to start.
Booklist
A successful thriller from an author who gets better with each book. . . . It's a gripping, twisty thriller.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765309754
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
07/08/2008
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“If looks could kill.”

Terry Farina was pleased with her image as she regarded herself in the mirror. She fluffed up her hair and touched up her lips, then turned to view her profile. The black satin sheath fit her like lacquer. Even without the straps, the dress would no doubt hold in place by the mere exertion of her flesh.

Her heart did a little jig at the thought of his dropping by. He had said he’d be over in about ten minutes, so she scrambled to straighten out the place, stuffing the mail into the kitchen cabinets, the counter drawers, and the dishwasher. She pushed books and papers into the closet and was just closing her laptop when he tapped at the front door.

She lit her face with a grand smile. “A man as good as his word,” she said as she swung open the door.

He held up a bottle of champagne. “Something to celebrate with.”

“Oh, how lovely. Thank you.” She closed the door and led him into the living room. He was dressed in a shiny jogging outfit and running shoes.

“My!” he said, taking her in. “You’re all decked out.”

“I was trying it on when you’d said you’d drop by, so I left it on.”

His eyes scanned her from top to bottom, then rested for an instant on her cleavage. “You look like you just stepped out of Vogue magazine.”

“You’re too kind.”

He raised his eyes to her face and the look in them set off a tiny ripple of pleasure inside her. She took the champagne and gave him a kiss on the cheek and led him into the kitchen.

She had lived in the apartment for the past eight months and had furnished it with a postmodern flare, combining a Duncan Phyfe sofa with teak chairs, tables, silver lamps, and watercolors. But he was not interested in her furnishings or the collectibles.

“You do the honors,” she said, and handed him the champagne as she got two glasses. “I’m so glad you came by.”

“Me, too.”

His face had a strange intensity. She watched as he undid the foil and wire mesh. Then with a quick flourish he twisted off the cork with a pop. She took the bottle and began to fill the glasses.

“Nothing for me.”

“You’re not going to make me drink alone, are you?”

“Okay, but just a little.” His eyes fluttered for a brief moment.

“You all right?”

“I’ve got something of a headache.”

“There’s some Tylenol in the cabinet by your head.”

“I already took something. I’ll be fine.”

She handed him the glass. “What shall we toast?”

He stared into the glass for a moment without response. He seemed a little displaced, as if only partly here. Maybe it was the headache. He had said that he was prone to bad ones.

“How about to a new beginning.”

She beamed. “I’ll drink to that.” Her glass clinked against his glass and she took a swallow. “Are you hungry? I haven’t got much, maybe some saltines and peanut butter—not exactly champagne food.”

“No, I already ate.” He took a tiny sip and looked at her with glazed expectation.

“Let’s go in here,” she said, and led him to the living-room sofa.

He sat beside her and again eyed her breasts. “Is the dress new?”

She sensed he was groping to make conversation. “I bought it a few months ago, but I think it’s a little snug.”

“No, it flatters you.”

She thanked him and sipped her drink. “You’re not drinking.”

“I’ll catch up.” He raised the glass, then lowered it.

He was clearly a bit anxious. She put her hand on his leg and gave him a little pat. “Come on, relax.” He really had no reason to feel uncomfortable with her, yet he was acting as if this were his first date.

He glanced at the clock. “I know you’re leaving early in the morning,” he said.

Her friend Katie was coming by around eight to drive them to Vermont for a few days.

“I just wanted to see you again before you left.”

“Well, here I am.” She took another sip from her glass and felt the alcohol send a warm glow throughout her brain. Champagne always did that to her—something about the carbon dioxide bubbles that intensified the buzz. She reached over for his glass and raised it. “I refuse to drink alone.”

He took a small sip and looked at her. His large opaque eyes filled his face. “You’re a very attractive woman.”

“Thank you.”

There was another awkward silence as she swallowed more champagne. She slipped her hand on his arm. He seemed to feel a small jolt, but he didn’t pull away. The next moment happened so fast that she even surprised herself. She leaned toward him and softly kissed his mouth. His eyes seemed to swirl as he studied her face. Then he moved his face to hers and pressed his lips into a long lingering kiss. As they continued, he began to writhe and make deep-throated groans, his mouth moving wetly over hers.

Suddenly he pulled away. “I’ve got a better idea,” he whispered, and took her hand.

“What?”

He stood up. “This way,” he said, and led her into the dining room and through the door on the left and down the hall toward her bedroom.

“And what exactly do we have in mind?”

But he didn’t respond. But when he clapped eyes on her bed he said, “Very nice.”

She had recently ordered an expensive new unit with a high white metal headboard and all new bedding, as well as a fluffy white summer comforter and colorful pillows. He walked her to the bed. His hand was hot. “My, my,” she said. “We seem to be on a mission.”

The phone beside the bed began to ring. “Don’t answer it.”

“Whoa! This is serious.” It was probably Katie calling about the pickup time tomorrow. She’d call her back later.

At the edge of the bed he turned to face her. His eyes were large and dark and the look in them set off a giddy sensation in her loins. He kissed her again.

“Maybe you can do the honors this time.”

“What?”

He ran his finger gently down her neck, over her cleavage, and down her belly.

She took his hand and gave him a kiss on the mouth. “You’re getting me excited.”

“All the better.”

Under that hot feral gaze—a look that she knew and took pleasure in—she began to undress. She undid the straps and reached behind and pulled down the zipper, then slithered out of the dress like a molting snake. With fascination he looked on as the dress pooled at her feet. She laid it on a chair, then removed her bra. Her nipples were taut little fingers pointing at him, and he regarded them with approval. She wanted him to touch her, to kiss her, but he just nodded at her black thong. So she slipped that off and laid it beside her bra and dress. Then she turned toward him.

“Hello, Beauty Girl,” he said, his voice barely audible.

She reached to give him a kiss, but he took her hand and led her to the bed. “Come on,” she said, reaching for his jacket.

“No, lie against the pillows.”

She got on the bed, feeling her skin stipple. “I’m getting cold.”

“You’ll get warm in a minute.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a thin package and handed it to her.

“For me?” She opened it up and inside were two chic black stockings, silky smooth and with intricate lace stay-up tops. She could tell they were very expensive. “They’re beautiful. Should I try them on?”

“Not yet.” He took one out of her hand and draped it on the chair with her clothes. Then he took the other one out of her hand. “How about a little game first?”

“A game?”

“Just lie back and put your hands behind your head.”

“Oh, my.” She smiled and she lay back against the pillow, her naked body stretched out before him, her breasts rising up like offerings. “Whatever lights your fire.”

He did not smile. He did not say anything. Just that enameled black glare.

He draped the stocking across her right foot and slowly dragged it to the other, then up her right shin and knee and across her thigh and belly and breasts. Then he drew the stocking teasingly back down to her feet again and up the other leg and across the small trimmed tuft of hair and her belly to her neck. He continued this for a while, not saying a word, but studying her with a strange intensity. She decided that this was some odd foreplay to turn himself on, so she settled into it, allowing the anticipation to mount.

He knew what he was doing, because little electrical eddies flared across her skin. She closed her eyes and spread her legs to let the stocking drift across the tender flesh of her inner thighs and across her pubis and up to her breasts. As he continued she became aroused and began to groan and raised her body against the tingling passes as if responding to a phantom lover. “Where did you learn this?” she whispered.

“I had a good teacher.”

In a short time she was panting, amazed at how he had worked her up by the fairy lickings of a nylon stocking.

After several more moments, she felt herself become wet and arched her hips to catch the length of material, imagining that it were his fingers, his lips, his tongue. But it eluded her and crawled up her belly to taunt her breasts. And the more he continued, the more she wished he would stop and give her the real thing—himself, his weight across her body, his thickness moving inside of her. God! She did all she could not to touch herself. Her mouth felt parched and she licked her lips. She didn’t think she could stand it much longer. “Please.” She grabbed for his leg.

But he pulled back again. His face was a mask of intensity. But he wasn’t even erect. She had thought this was for him, but his pants were flat. Yet his eyes were black with heat. She raised herself and held out her hand. “You’re driving me crazy.”

“Good.”

The stocking snaked across her shoulders ever so slowly, then down her front.

“I want you,” she whispered.

“Soon.”

Another long maddening moment passed until she thought she would explode. “Please.”

“Close your eyes,” he said softly.

She did and heard him say, “Yes.”

In a lightning move, he wrapped the stocking around her neck and pulled with all his might.

The scream caught in her windpipe and came out as a single audible catch.

It happened so fast that shock had set in before she could comprehend what he was doing. This was not a little sex game. The stocking dug into her neck like a garrote, choking off the flow of blood and air.

God Almighty! she thought. This isn’t happening. Why is he doing this?

By reflex she tried to get her fingers under the material before she passed out, but instantly he was upon her, straddling her hips and pressing his full weight on her upper body while keeping the strangling hold. With her eyes she pleaded, but his face was a blank.

She couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t move as all strength rapidly seeped from her arms and legs, abandoning her in the last moments to the realization that this was her death. His eyes locked on hers, huge black stones filling her tunneling vision. This wasn’t supposed to be. Not her. Not when things were just beginning again.

“Dirty girl,” he whispered.

And the world went black.

Excerpted from SKIN DEEP by Gary Braver.

Copyright © 2008 by Gary Braver.

Published in July 2008 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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