“In the Blood,” by Lisa Unger. Touchstone. 352 pages. $25.99.
Lisa Unger is the high priestess of the psychological thriller, and with this new book she has both focused and deepened her penetration into the abyss of aberration. This is a remarkable study about people whose feelings are not normal and whose behavior is dangerous. It is also about the threshold between despair and hope, healing and numbing, deceit and brutal honesty.
Ms. Unger presents us with states of mind and emotion that we wish to turn away from, but her art is so hypnotic that we cannot. We face this abyss, and we learn by facing it.
When we meet Lana Granger, she is struggling through her senior year at Sacred Heart College in The Hollows, an upstate New York community that has been the setting for several Lisa Unger’s novels. Lana is a very private person. She dresses simply and modestly. She avoids touching. She doesn’t share much about her background (her father has been convicted of killing her mother) and essentially she lives a life of lies.
Over the years, therapy and medication have helped Lana survive her demons, but memories and voices still haunt her. No one really knows her, but those who sense what’s beneath the mask are a threat. For these few, can she risk being honest, truly being “herself”?
Her college counselor, an expert on abnormal psychology, arranges for Lana to take a babysitting job with a terribly troubled boy who is enrolled in nearby Fieldstone School, a last-chance institution for kids with severe behavior problems.
Luke is a brainy, controlling fellow with a cruel, violent streak that breaks out of control too often. Like many children, he learned early on that his antics make him the center of attention. He knows how to manipulate others to get what he wants. Lana, who understands a great deal about Luke’s inner world from her own past, is a skilled adversary, but is she skilled and courageous enough? More and more is at stake as their relationship unfolds. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the Fort Myers Florida Weekly for February 26, 2014 and the February 27 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here Florida Weekly – Unger 1 and here Florida Weekly – Unger 2