Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lisa Unger's Fragile Explores Small Town Secrets

A few months ago, I kept seeing the name Lisa Unger splashed all over the book blogs I read. Her newest novel, Darkness, My Old Friend had been released, and her fans were raving about the book. I added both Darkness and her earlier novel Fragile, which Darkness followed, to my to-read list. When Audible ran a special a couple of months ago, I downloaded Fragile because mystery-type novels are my favorites for listening. Unexpectedly (because I had nothing to base it on, never having read her books), Unger's Fragile knocked my socks off. I listened to it in a matter of days, even though it ran about twelve hours -- which would normally take me at least a week or two of listening.

Fragile takes place in The Hollows, a New York City suburb. Because of its distance from the big city, The Hollows functions as more of a small town than as a typical suburb. Children are born and raised; some leave, but more stay. It's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone; it's impossible to go to the store or take a walk without saying hello to a neighbor. Psychologist Maggie Cooper escaped for a while, but after attending college in NYC, she fell for a boy from her high school. She and Jones Cooper have created a nice life for themselves in their hometown: he, a police detective; she, with a successful in-home counseling practice; and their teenage son Rick, getting ready to apply for and leave for college.

But every small town has its secrets, and The Hollows is no different. Lisa Unger carefully reveals just enough, one thing at a time, to keep readers in suspense and to spin a fabulous tale of deceit and -- yes, murder. Twenty years ago, a girl named Sarah disappeared one afternoon. A man went to prison for her murder, but Maggie's mother -- and others -- always had their suspicions about his innocence. When another girl disappears in present-day The Hollows, that old mystery begins to surface in the minds of the town's citizens.

Unger's strong suit is her ability to include a multitude of characters without confusing the plot. Instead, the inclusion of so many major and minor characters adds to the small-town atmosphere the novel creates. The reader feels as though he or she is present in The Hollows, and knows every citizen intimately. From Maggie's elderly mother, to a local pest-control guy, to damaged police officers, high school students, and even a self-proclaimed psychic, Unger peoples Fragile and The Hollows with a cast of characters readers will love.

The good news is that Unger, while new to me, has written half a dozen other books that I can now go back and read -- as can you! For more info on Unger and her books, visit the author's website or her blog Notes from the Margin. Recently she shared that Fragile has been optioned by TNT to be a movie in their Mystery Movie Night series. TNT is bringing many favorite mystery novels to life on the small screen with MMN, including Scott Turow's Innocent, Lisa Gardner's Hide, and now, Fragile.

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