Tag Archives: missing persons

Lisa Unger’s latest thriller digs up dark secrets

Lisa Unger, “Darkness, My Old Friend.” Crown. $24.00. 368 pages.

Lisa Unger’s latest novel takes us back to The Hollows, an ordinary yet somewhat eerie suburb of New York City first probed in Ms. Unger’s “Fragile” (2010, now in paperback). Familiar to readers of “Fragile” will be Jones Cooper and his wife Dr. Maggie Cooper, a psychologist. Jones is a retired police officer who has been staying around the house and doing odd jobs for neighbors. “Fragile” records the unfortunate events that led to his retirement, which has left Jones somewhat unsettled. Though he had no plans to become a private detective, people are coming his way with problems that lure him in that direction. 

The other characters in “Darkness, My Old Friend” are new. Bethany Graves has only recently moved to the Hollows after a somewhat bitter divorce. She has left the city to protect her daughter, Willow, from its evils. But teenagers always find trouble, and Willow is a classic example of a young girl filled with resentment and overcompensating for low self-esteem. She is uncooperative at school, skips classes, and has one good friend, Jolie, who is even more of a trouble-maker. Both are drawn to darkness and danger. Together, they witness mysterious and suspicious behavior in the heavily wooded area that borders one of the town’s older neighborhoods. Someone seems to be digging something up – or trying to. Bethany is near her wit’s end in dealing with Willow, who has become Maggie Cooper’s patient.

Eloise Montgomery, a psychic (for lack of a better term), has been feeling the presence of danger involving townspeople past and present. There seems to be some connection between the digging, Eloise’s intuitions, and the long-ago disappearance of Marla Holt – a gorgeous young woman who was thought to have simply left The Hollows and her family to escape her life’s tedium. Her son Michael has recently returned to the family’s home after the death of his father, Mack. Michael, who is the person the teens found digging, has unfinished business. He engages Eloise and PI Ray Muldune to find out what happened to his mother.

Lisa Unger - by Tanya Sharkey

Another failing marriage involves Paula and Kevin Carr. Kevin has been a controlling, abusive husband whom Paula fears. She has agreed to add to their household young Cole, Kevin’s son by his first wife, Robin. Kevin claims that Robin is unable to raise Cole properly. Paula soon learns that Robin is missing, and she engages Jones Cooper to find him. Meanwhile, Cole attracts both Willow and Jolie, becoming part of a rather unhealthy teen triangle. Before long, Paula is missing as well and Jones sets out to find her. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the September 7, 2011 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the September 8 issue of the Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Unger (2). For pdf versions, see Darkness pdf – 1 and Darkness pdf – 2

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BOOK BEAT 70 – Lisa Unger

Posted by: Philip K. Jason on June 5, 2008

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James Swain’s Monster of a Thriller

“The Night Monster,” by James Swain. Ballantine Books. 400 pages. $7.99.

Now available in paperback, “The Night Monster” continues James Swain’s “Jack Carpenter” series, assuring readers that they can depend on this quick-witted and resourceful private eye to provide the same level of excitement that Tony Valentine does in Mr. Swain’s earlier series. To keep Valentine in view, pending further development of that series, the author gives him a cameo appearance doing his thing exposing gambling cheats with a scene set in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

While James Swain writes out of Odessa, a small town in the Tampa area, Broward County is Jack Carpenter’s beat. Jack is a highly specialized freelancer, having accepted a forced resignation from his position as the head of the Broward County Missing Persons Unit. Now, a cold case and a new one merge into what looks like a stream of serial abductions, beginning perhaps with a case from eighteen years back that Carpenter couldn’t close. The perpetrator, a giant hulk of a man, has abducted Sara Long, a Florida State University women’s basketball teammate of Jack’s daughter, Jessie.  As the investigation proceeds, other unclosed missing persons cases turn out to have a similar pattern of victims: attractive, athletic young women pursuing nursing credentials. Why these women? Why the 4-5 year intervals between crimes? What is the relationship between the immense abductor and the small man whom Jessie had seen taking pictures of her basketball team?

Because the new case is high profile – Sara Long’s father is an important man – the police are in a rush to close it. They pick the easiest suspect, Sara’s ex-boyfriend, in spite of Jack’s insistence that he is not the perpetrator. Only after Jack has put several of the pieces together are his former workmates forced into following his lead. It helps that an FBI official, as well as Sara’s father, are willing to cooperate – though Mr. Long’s eagerness and arrogance often handicap Jack’s efforts.

When the investigation leads Jack to an abandoned mental institution named Daybreak and then to a small town about a half hour east of Daytona where the majority of the people are missing a limb or two, the creepiness factor accelerates.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – James Swain. It also appears in the June 10-16 issue of both the Naples Florida Weekly and the Charlotte Florida Weekly.

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