Tag Archives: Lisa Unger

I Shall Be Released

I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around…/ Reality has always had too many heads. Bob Dylan, “Cold Irons Bound.”

Forgetting Place

The Forgetting Place: A Novel by John Burley (William Morrow, $14.99, 344 pages)

Wow.

John Burley’s second novel, The Forgetting Place, is a worthy successor to Absence of Mercy. At first it did not appear as if that would be the case, as the story seemed to meander for a while. But, Burley’s managed to do it again.

Dr. Lise Shields arrives at Menaker, a correctional psychiatric facility in Maryland and becomes embroiled in a massive “cover up” – or does she? That is the question readers are left with when they finish the book. Who exactly are the victims in this story?

The plot is well conceived, but pulling this story off was no easy task. Fortunately, Burley did pull it off. So much so that one cannot be sure with any absolute certainty what did or did not happen. This brilliantly parallels the confusion evident in the minds of the mentally ill that Dr. Shields is or is not treating.

One of the main male characters has a lover, who is a suspected terrorist; the latter winds up being murdered. That’s about all one can say for certain. To go into much greater detail would create too many spoilers for prospective readers of this work.

This is a fine novel, Mr. Burley! If you can keep this going, you’ll wind up with a cult following and perhaps much more.

Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on February 10, 2015.

“The Forgetting Place is a deep dive into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Surprises wait at every turn.” Lisa Unger

“Layered and evocative – an intelligent, powerful read.” Sophie Littlefield

“Will send chills down your spine. A taut psychological thriller.” Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives.

Dave Moyer is an educator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street

Mean Business (north book)

Mean Business on Ganson Street: A Novel by S. Craig Zahler (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 304 pages)

An opening chapter filled with violence is standard fare for writers such as Lisa Unger, Deborah Crombie and Lee Child. Thereafter, the story settles into an exploration of the characters and their motivations that eventually link back to that initial shock. The reader is provided red herring possibilities for the solution to the mystery – who dunnit?

Author S. Craig Zahler has penned a “novel” that is, in fact, a snuff movie on paper. Sadly, the Warner Brothers studio has optioned the book and the author is working on the screen adaptation. His vision may spring to life. My hope is that it will be X rated. Anything less will mean that the gore and violence splattered on most of its pages has been insinuated and a younger audience will be admitted for viewing.

The contrasts set up between Detective Jules Bettinger, formerly of Arizona, and the sworn officers in Victory, Missouri are punctuated by crude epithets hurled every which way. Bettinger is exiled after being less than helpful when the former son-in-law of the mayor comes to the police station to secure assistance in locating his missing would-be bride.

Bettinger is alternatively a well-spoken man with an education, a loving husband and father and a guy out for revenge. Regardless of his role, he’s only marginally likeable. Zahler is sadly lacking in his female character development. Each of the women in his tale is one-dimensional. Even Bettinger’s wife fails to experience authentic feelings.

If trash talk and gory, sadistic and gratuitous violence are your preferred criterion for selecting a book, have at it. Everyone else should steer clear! To be clear, this book is not recommended; far from it.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Blood Simple

In the Blood: A Novel by Lisa Unger (Touchstone, $25.99, 352 pages)

in-the-blood

A “normal” or “sane” childhood won’t be found in this, the latest thriller from Lisa Unger. The setting is The Hollows, a small rural town outside New York City. Lana Granger, a trust fund baby, is the central character. Lana attends Sacred Heart, a small local college, and is a fourth year psychology student. She follows the advice of her trust fund manager to begin earning money. With the help of her faculty advisor, Dr. Langdon Hewes, she finds a part time job caring for Luke Kahn, a deeply disturbed boy.

The intersection of Lana’s scarred past and Luke’s twisted mind form the center of the plot that includes the disappearance of Lana’s college roommate. Former cop Jones Cooper and his wife, Maggie, who is Lana’s psychologist, provide stability and logic for the reader amid some bizarre happenings. The two narrators, Lana and an unknown person, are clearly troubled souls in search of relief from their tormented childhoods.

Ms. Unger writes in crisp, restrained dialogue that taunts the reader. She employs a switch in type font technique to heighten the tension and strengthen the undercurrent that runs through this, her eighth thriller.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Ruta Arellano

In the Blood audio

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book was released on January 7, 2014.

“An absolute corker of a thriller.” Dennis Lehane

The Audible Audio Edition is read by Gretchen Mol and Candace Thaxon.

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Coming Up Next…

In the Blood alt.

A review of In the Blood: A Novel by Lisa Unger.

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As Good as Dead

Inherit the Dead (nook book)

Inherit the Dead: A Novel by Lee Child, et al. (Touchstone, $25.99, 288 pages)

Twenty Thrilling Writers. One Chilling Mystery.

Mystery fans will be happy to know that the twenty writers who contributed to this serial novel are supporting a good cause, Safe Horizon — a charity in support of victims of violent crimes. Lisa Unger, Lawrence Block, Marcia Clark and John Connolly are this reviewer’s favorites in the mix. In a serial novel, each writer adds to the story thread in his or her own writing style (although each author was given an outline of the plot).

The plot twists and scenes follow along with these styles. Some chapters are all action and others are based on character conversations. Entries at the conclusion of several chapters are printed in a different type font — clearly originating from an unseen character who is either bonkers or a sociopath.

Pericles “Perry” Christo is hired to find a missing heiress named Angelina (Angel for short). Perry is a former New York Police Department homicide detective who is down on his luck but not defeated. Angel’s mom is fading fast and wants to reconnect with her daughter. The hunt for Angel takes Perry from New York City to the Hamptons and back.

Inherit the Dead is a good read with plenty of tension building to the reveal.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Inherit the Dead was released on October 8, 2013.

Here is an interview with Jonathan Santlofer, the Editor of the book:

http://blogcritics.org/interview-with-jonathan-santlofer-eeditor-of-inherit-the-dead/

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Coming Up Next…

Inherit-the-Dead

A review of Inherit the Dead, a novel written by 20 prominent mystery writers.

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Darkness, Darkness

Heartbroken: A Novel by Lisa Unger (Crown, $24.00, 384 pages)

Heartbroken

Lisa Unger coerces her readers into experiences of the soul that can leave an indelible mark. The interactions among three generations make this a tale for a wide audience. Heartbroken provides a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. Again, as in Darkness, My Old Friend, Ms. Unger makes alienation, self-absorption and serious mental illness the undercurrents for her most recent creation. It’s all about contrasts and the need for visibility/balance in life.

On one side of the equation are the old-money Burke family members and on the other is Emily, a coffee shop waitress who has gotten herself in a bit of a tight spot thanks to her conniving boyfriend, Dean. Birdie Burke, the matriarch of the Burke clan, owns an island on a lake in the Adirondacks where her family has enjoyed the comfort and recreation known to precious few people. Daughter Kate is firmly fixed in the sandwich generation as the mother of teenager Chelsea who is feeling awkward and plain.

The annual family gathering brings Kate, Chelsea and Chelsea’s best friend Lulu to the island. Kate has been trying without success to crawl out from under her mother’s thumb. She hates being coerced into the summer ritual. Kate’s father, Joe, escapes from his wife’s tyrannical island rules to tend his business in New York City leaving Kate and the girls to endure until Kate’s husband and their son make the trek to the island.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, Emily is drawn in way beyond help into a scheme that Dean has cooked up. Emily has family issues. She’s the daughter of a less-than-ideal mother who is buried in her own issues. Emily, Dean and his evil friend from Florida go on a rampage reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde. Naturally there is a meeting of the disparate tales. The drama builds to a magnificent, exciting, ending.

Ms. Unger is a highly-skilled author whose work deserves more attention than the airplane read. Nevertheless, any time spent reading Heartbroken, in the air, on the beach or on a comfortable sofa will be well spent.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Heartbroken was released in trade paper form on April 9, 2013.

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