Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Darkness, My Old Friend

Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies and Fragile returns to The Hollows, delivering a thriller that explores matters of faith, memory, and sacrifice.

After giving up his post at the Hollows Police Department, Jones Cooper is at loose ends. He is having trouble facing a horrible event from his past and finding a second act. He’s in therapy. Then, on a brisk October morning, he has a visitor. Eloise Montgomery, the psychic who plays a key role in
Fragile, comes to him with predictions about his future, some of them dire.

Michael Holt, a young man who grew up in The Hollows, has returned looking for answers about his mother, who went missing many years earlier. He has hired local PI Ray Muldune and psychic Eloise Montgomery to help him solve the mystery that has haunted him. What he finds might be his undoing.

Fifteen-year-old Willow Graves is exiled to The Hollows from Manhattan when six months earlier she moved to the quiet town with her novelist mother after a bitter divorce.  Willow is acting out, spending time with kids that bring out the worst in her. And when things get hard, she has a tendency to run away—a predilection that might lead her to dark places.

Set in The Hollows, the backdrop for
Fragile, this is the riveting story of lives set on a collision course with devastating consequences. The result is Lisa Unger’s most compelling fiction to date. -- Crown

One of my highlights at this year's BEA was getting to meet author Lisa Unger and receive an autographed ARC of her latest novel DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND. Last year, I reviewed FRAGILE and was very impressed with so many things -- the character development, the thematic elements, and the mystery, to name just a few. I could hardly wait to read her next book and (if I'm being honest) see how it compared to FRAGILE.

All I can say is "Wow! "I absolutely loved DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND. Maybe even more than FRAGILE and that's saying a lot! There are many of the same terrific components in this novel that impressed me before, and I do think Ms. Unger should be recognized as a wonderful storyteller. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND once again takes place in the The Hollows and you'll recognize a few of the characters from FRAGILE. However, you don't necessarily have to read FRAGILE first to appreciate DARKNESS... but more on that later!

In DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, former policeman Jones Cooper is center stage as he helps to solve a cold case on a missing woman. Initially, Eloise, the town psychic, and her private investigator friend Ray are asked to look into the case by the woman's grown son Michael. However Jones, who is still reeling from the events that occurred in FRAGILE, finds that keeping busy just might help him get back to some semblance of normalcy. There are also many other interesting side stories and characters -- from Willow, a teen girl who witnesses something very suspicious; to her friend and fellow newbie Cole; to the entire dysfunctional Carr family; to Michael, the man chasing down his past. And it's just terrific how Ms. Unger brings them all together in this novel, not only through various plot points, but also through their individual battles with darkness. It really is quite impressive.

I admit that I figured out the mystery aspect of DARKNESS part-way through the story, but that didn't hinder my appreciation of this book. In fact, it might have had the opposite effect. Because Ms. Unger does so much within the pages of her suspense novels above and beyond just the mystery,  I found myself focusing on many of the characters and their actions as well as the setting. (What is it that makes The Hollows so unique?) In addition, I was able to delve into many of the insights into human nature that occurred throughout this novel.

I mentioned earlier that you don't have to read FRAGILE first to appreciated DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND. And that's definitely true. Ms. Unger does a great job of referencing that novel without any major spoilers, and I think she provides the reader with enough information about Jones' state-of-mind to truly understand his character. However, I do think DARKNESS would be best appreciated if you have already read the prior novel. While Ms. Unger does write thrillers, she also writes novels with very complex (and real) characters. I think because I was already familiar with Jones' past and his relationship to others, I just got more out of this story as a result.

DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND would make a wonderful book club pick. I know I finished this book a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it and wanting to discuss it with some friends. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide yet, but I'm sure there will be one on the publisher's and/or author's website in the near future. This book is just perfect for dissecting because the character development is so rich. Truly, you could discuss Jones, Eloise, Willow, and other minor characters for hours because they are so intriguing... and so real. In addition, Ms. Unger touched upon some very relevant topics such as fear, abuse, marriage, therapy, control, dishonesty, the past, emptiness/voids, and two of my favorite themes in this book -- communication and social media. I found that there were quite a few insights into today's society that really caused me to think.

I highly recommend DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND! It's a very intense novel that will not only entertain you, but also make you think!


Jenn's Bookshelves said...

Adding this to my must read list! I've heard nothing but good things about it!

bermudaonion said...

I love Fragile, so I'm really looking forward to this one. I think Unger does a wonderful job of building tension in her novels.

Beth Hoffman said...

I don't know how I'm going to get to all these books, but after reading your review, I added this one to my list too!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think I have this (although I'm too lazy to go through my SIX boxes of TBRs to check!) So I'm glad to hear you loved it - next time I'm ready to go box digging, I'll pull it out!

iwriteinbooks said...

This sounds really interesting and something worth taking a look at. I’ve been reading really fluffy stuff, lately, so this might be a nice change of pace.

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

I have not read any books by Lisa Unger yet. I'm not sure why that is since the descriptions of her books always grab my attention. I will have to add this one and Fragile to my wish list. I'm really starting to like these types of reads.

Alison's Book Marks said...

I have this book, but haven't read it yet. Part of me wasn't sure if I wanted to go back and read Fragile, but now I will. Thanks, Julie!

stacybuckeye said...

I'm hit or miss with Unger. I still need to read Fragile and I guess I'll have to since you loved it and this follow up so much.