Lana Granger is a quiet student at a small private college in upstate New York. She keeps to herself, trying to figure out her troubled life. Several years earlier, her father killed her mother, was sent to death row, and Lana left to live with her maternal aunt. She felt directionless, unambitious, but went through the motions of life, hopeful of someday getting better. When a professor and adviser suggested she take a job babysitting a troubled eleven year old boy, Luke, she thought that would be a good way to start finding herself.
About the same time, Lana's roommate and best friend, Beck, goes missing after the two have a fight. Lana was the last one seen with her, and there are more questions than answers about the disappearance. When Luke suggests a scavenger hunt of sorts, she felt tested, and could not let go. But the game seems to hit a little too close to home, and Lana can't walk away from it, her past, or come to terms with Beck's disappearance.
"When something unspeakable happens, or when you do something unspeakable, it changes you. It takes you apart and reassembles you. You area a Frankenstein of circumstance, and the parts never fit back quite right and the life you live is a stolen one. You don't deserve to walk among the living, and you know it."Interspersed into the story are diary entries written by the mother of a troubled young boy. She tells her diary about her marriage, her happiness, the excitement about a baby, and how difficult he turns about to be. Happiness leads to exhaustion, the couple become distant, resentful. But she's always hopeful for a better future, hopeful of helping her son function and find happiness in the world.
In The Blood is the twelfth book by Lisa Unger. It is a psychological thriller that from the first pages will capture a reader's attention, only to be pulled deeper and deeper into the world of troubled minds and souls. The story was well written, captivating, and unpredictable. The characters were believable and dynamic, deep but not over the top. Maybe most importantly, especially for a thriller, it was full of surprises that were not fully resolved until the end.
The book also touched on some social issues. Most obviously is the mental health issue, intertwined with how violent crime can impact children and families. There are others, but revealing them could spoil the story! Making a social statement is certainly not a requirement for a good book, but it can make it a little more personal for some, more interesting for others, and eye-opening for everyone.
There were a few areas of the book I thought could have been better. Lana questioned her relationship with Beck several times, but her thoughts didn't grow, change, or solidify as the worry and anger over Beck's disappearance increased. Lana's suspected role in Beck's disappearance could have added more to the story, too. Police put pressure on her, but it was more implied and not a serious worry for Lana until near the end. For reasons that would give away too much, it would have been interesting if Lana and Rachel, Luke's single-mother, become closer.
In The Blood was my first read from Lisa Unger. It won't be my last.
Unger, Lisa. In The Blood, Touchstone, January 7, 2014.
In The Blood was provided to The Thirty Year Itch as an Advanced Review Copy by Crimespree Magazine and Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. No compensation was received for this review.
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