For her latest mystery, the consistently excellent Lisa Unger returns to The Hollows, the small town setting of Fragile, which we reviewed here last year.
Adult/High School–Unger’s follow up to Fragile (Crown, 2010) takes place in the same fictional small town, and again focuses on psychiatrist Maggie and now-retired police chief Jones, while teen characters are integral to the plot. Maggie’s patient Willow has moved to The Hollows after a troubled time in New York. Her adjustment to rural life is fraught with self-doubt and depression, and her only friends are “bad girl” Jolie and potential boyfriend, Cole. Cole has his own troubles with a missing mother (who Jones has been hired to find), and a father who may actually be a sociopath. Willow runs from problems, literally, and during one such episode she discovers a man in the woods who may or may not be digging up a body. It turns out that his mother went missing years ago, and Jones was never able to solve the case. Jones and Maggie are the hub connecting several story lines. Unger allows readers to get to know the players first, and the mystery unravels as characters start to show their true selves. The shifting point of view is particularly compelling when focused on Willow, who made a devastating mistake at her previous school and is now struggling to regain her confidence. The characterization is genuine and the themes of recovering from the past and developing individual identity not only make this a more thoughtful mystery than most, but also focus on issues and emotions that teens experience in their daily lives.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA