Book Review: INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger - Touchstone Books
Publication June 7, 2016
Ink and Bone is a special blend of psychological thriller, supernatural horror, and domestic drama. Finley Montgomery, age 21, has left her hometown of Seattle and settled with her beloved grandmother Eloise in The Hollows, a small town in upstate New York. Finley is attending a local college and studying abnormal psychology, particularly Carl Jung. Her life has been atypical. She has been seeing spirits and having visions since she was a small child. Finley came east so that Eloise, who is a renowned psychic, and Eloise's own mentor Agatha can aid and instruct Finley about how to master, hone and live with her abilities. Eloise works with local private investigator Jones Cooper on missing persons cases. Eloise knows that her granddaughter has extraordinary gifts, and, from her own experience, knows that such gifts often come with a price. The Hollows, the setting for earlier novels by Unger, is like many small communities, and yet it is a uniquely strange place.
"The negative energy of The Hollows could not be denied. It was no secret to Finley, who felt it constantly. The Hollows boasted an anomalous number of missing persons, of miscarriages, of accidents and unexplained events. Throughout its history, there had been brutal murders, witch burnings, and horrible mining accidents. There's a powerful energy here, Eloise had said more than once. It's not always positive, it's not always negative, but it always demands something from people like us."
Jones brings a case to Eloise. Merri Gleason wants them to look into the disappearance of her eight-year-old daughter which happened ten months ago. Merri and her husband, a successful couple from Manhattan, had rented a lakeside cabin near The Hollows the previous summer. While Merri napped, Wolf took their thirteen-year-old son and their daughter on a nature hike. Two men appeared, shot Wolf in the leg, then shot his son, and abducted the little girl. The Gleason family have been in torment since then, and Merri believes Eloise is her last chance to locate her daughter.
Finley has been having auditory hallucinations which Eloise believes is related to the girl's disappearance. Eloise tells Jones and Finley that this case requires Finley's gifts. As soon as Finley and Jones visit the trail where the girl was abducted, Finley has a vision from the perspective of a person who was there when the abduction occurred. These visions continue and, combined with Jones's own detective work and some other leads, bring Finley and Jones closer to the truth about where the girl was taken and why. This truth, and The Hollows, may require a sacrifice from Finley.
Lisa Unger is an exceptional psychological thriller writer. Her writing is engaging and cinematic, the plotting is seamless, and the characters are vivid and realistic. Each character's psyche, motivation, and actions are thoroughly examined and explained, the mark of a true psychological thriller. She uses supernatural elements--psychic abilities, ghosts, the setting of The Hollows--to disclose the all-too-real horror of a child abduction. By doing so, Unger is able to raise an essential question: What is a "normal" life? To Finley, seeing spirits and having visions is part of daily existence. Merri has spent nearly a year not knowing whether or not her daughter is dead or alive, and while that is unimaginable, it has become her reality. A little girl is using her wiles to stay alive while being held captive by evil people who masquerade as small town folks. Furthermore, Unger shows a true understanding of how trauma affects people. Some people are devastated by traumatic events, while others have resilience and not only recover but discover they have gained skills and a capacity for survival they would not otherwise possess.
Ink and Bone is a riveting and thought-provoking thriller which is sure to be a popular and ideal "summer read," providing readers with chills and excitement. I look forward to spending more time in The Hollows and getting to know its residents better in Lisa Unger's next outing.
Thank you, Touchstone Books, for providing me with an advance reading copy through NetGalley.