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THE STRANGER INSIDE by Lisa Unger Kirkus Star


by Lisa Unger

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7783-0872-0
Publisher: Park Row Books

This complex psychological thriller digs deep into the layers of trauma that linger long after a terrible crime.

This is the 17th novel by Unger (Under My Skin, 2018, etc.), and it revisits one of her frequent themes: the indelible impact of violence on the survivors of crimes. The survivor at its center is Rain Winter, who at age 12 was one of three friends who became the victims of a monster. At first glance, Rain seems to have overcome that nightmare. She’s happily married and reveling in motherhood, although she vacillates between the joy she finds in 1-year-old Lily and the tug of the job she left as a hard-charging radio news producer. That tug increases when she hears that a man whose murder trial she covered, a man who was acquitted of killing his pregnant wife, has been found dead—killed in just the same way his wife was. Rain was sure he was guilty, so she feels some dark satisfaction, and her investigative instincts (and maybe something else) are aroused when a dark web mole, tipster, and blogger tells her off the record that there have been other, very similar revenge murders, and they might be the work of the same person. That wakes her own worst memories: “There weren’t many people who remembered Rain’s ugly history. It was big news once, but it had faded in the bubbling morass of horrific crimes since then.” Its aftermath included the children’s attacker being released from prison—and murdered. Chapters describing Rain’s pursuit of the story of a possible vengeful serial killer are intercut with chapters narrated by a mysterious person from her past, one who is closer to her in the present than she knows. Unger skillfully peels back the layers of Rain’s emotional scar tissue to expose the truth of what happened in her childhood and the fear, rage, and guilt it left behind, with a series of shocking consequences.

Surviving a crime is the beginning of the story, not the end, in this astute, engrossing thriller.