Fragile by Lisa Unger begins with a prologue: a man dumping something into a pit during a storm. He's a cop, a respected one who lives in a small suburban town 100 miles from New York City.
The officer, Jones Cooper, and his psychologist wife, Maggie, are struggling with a rebellious teen son who is trying to define who he is. The teen, Rick, seems like a good kid with excellent grades and a slew of college acceptance letters. But his girlfriend, Charlene, is dark, complicated, troubled.
When she disappears, it puts the Coopers into a tailspin.
Did she up and leave on her own, or did somebody take her? Did Rick have something to do with it? And why does this disappearance seem similar to that of another girl 20 years prior? Of course, that incident in the same small town did not end well.
Believe it or not, the plot line — a disappearance — is based on a true event from Unger’s teen years, when a girl she knew went missing. Later, the girl was found murdered. Fragile is not about the girl Unger knew, per se, but rather the fear and trauma that the girl’s murder caused.
The people of The Hollows are all struggling. Struggling with who they were, who they are, and who they want to be. The memories we carry with us from our formative years shape us, even when they’re hidden, and they make us who we are. That is the essence of Fragile, beyond the disappearance.
The Psychology Is Interesting, But The Suspense Is A Killer.
The book is edgy and suspenseful. But it is a bit of a departure from the thrillers Unger is better known for like Black Out (2008). Still, she pulls it off with strong effect. As the story unravels, it becomes clear that the man who had confessed and was convicted of the murder two decades ago may never have been the killer. He is guilty. But Unger convinces us that he is not guilty of murder. Or maybe he is.
As a thriller, the twists and turns keep the story alive. While some of them are predictable, most are not, which makes it a refreshing find compared to most modern suspense novels. Too many of them give it away, hoping to make the reader feel smart. In this case, you'll find yourself much more lost in what Unger does best.
Unger is skilled at developing damaged characters who keep the pace going. Fragile never lets up until the very last page.
Lisa Unger’s Fragile Scores A 5.8 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Like many authors, Unger writes about places she’s lived (New York City, New Jersey, Florida) and people she’s known. And this makes her work accessible and believable. I had never read any of her work until receiving the unedited proof, but I expect I will in the near future. I'm almost interested to see what is next for the New Haven native, raised in the Netherlands, England and New Jersey. If you like her enough, you might even pick up something by Lisa Miscione, her pen name.
Fragile: A Novel is available at Amazon. It has also been released for the Kindle. You can also get to know the author by reading her blog, Notes From The Margin.