By Lisa Unger
Each of Lisa Unger’s visits to The Hollows delves deeper into the myriad residents of this quiet town about 160 kilometers from New York City. Here, in this idyllic-sounding town, there is a menace that latches onto those who live here and seeps into their lives.
Unger continues her dark psychological approach in this third visit to The Hollows. The only recurring characters in Unger’s The Hollows novels are Jones Cooper, a detective, and his psychologist wife, Maggie, both of whom play a small but important role as “In the Blood” progresses.
“In the Blood” follows the maturation of Lana Granger, a brilliant college student who has isolated herself at the small college in town. Before she came to college, Lana changed her name and appearance so that no one would associate her with her father, who is on death row for killing her mother. Lana lives in fear that her secret will get out and that she harbors those same violent tendencies. Lana has tried to avoid personal relationships, but fellow student Beck Miller has broken down her barriers and is the closest she has ever come to having a best friend.
When one of her professors suggests she take a job, Lana ends up babysitting for the newly arrived Rachel Kahn’s disturbed 11-year-old son, Luke. Despite Luke’s rage-fueled personality, Lana seems to be able to relate to Luke. But soon after, Lana’s friend, Beck, vanishes after the two were seen having a public fight. Lana’s fears intensify as she worries about her friend. But she also has another anxiety. A missing college student brings on a media firestorm and Lana is concerned that her past will be revealed. “It couldn’t help but be discovered; it was too raw, too sensational, it would sell too many newspapers, magazines, and TV ads.”
The brisk plot churns as Unger skillfully explores the mental state of each character, and what brought them to their current situations. Unger ups the ante by interspersing a mysterious woman’s diary entries about her out-of-control son and her crumbling marriage.
Unger’s again showcases her affinity for exploring the darkness that drives some people in the gripping “In the Blood.” (MCT)