“In the blood” by Lisa Unger

From the first line of the novel the reader becomes aware that this is a book about someone who is damaged, traumatized and maybe even disturbed.  What more can you ask of a psychological thriller?  Family secrets, murder, and a mystery.  Oh yeah, it’s got those too…

For some time now I have been meaning to read a novel by Lisa Unger, but somehow the opportunity never arose until I received an advanced reader’s copy of “In the blood” from Simon & Schuster.

"In the blood" by Lisa UngerWe meet a female college student, Lana Granger.  She is a solitary, androgynous girl from a well-to-do, dysfunctional family.  She is very, very clever which tends to set her apart even more from the mainstream.  She craves her solitariness while she simultaneously despises it.   Over time  we come to realize that she also carries with her the stigma of having come from a family with murder in its history…

When one of Lana’s roommates goes missing from campus, her history comes back to haunt her.  People are quick to judge and the person who is solitary, distant and ‘different’ makes for a likely suspect regardless of the crime.  Lana must deal with the suspicion of others while at the same time confront her own sadness and turmoil over the absence of her friend.

She turns to her adviser who suggests she get a part-time job off campus.  She secures the position of babysitter for Luke, a disturbed and manipulative eleven year old boy who lives alone with his mother.  She can identify with Luke as she too was labelled  a ‘troubled child’, who went to a ‘special school’, saw psychiatric counselors and was given psychoactive drugs.  Lana is fascinated by Luke who seems to have an IQ even higher than hers, who seems to know her, who frightens her more than a little…

manipulateleven year old boy who lives alone with his mother.  She can identify with Luke as she too was labelled as a ‘troubled child’, who went to a ‘special school’, saw psychiatric counsellors and was given psychoactive drugs.  Lana is fascinated by Luke who seems to have an IQ even higher than hers, who seems to know her, who frightens her more than a little…

Written with a deep understanding of the human psyche, “In the blood” really makes you think.  It’s pages discuss many concepts including nature vs. nurture ; independent choice vs. reaction to circumstance ; sex role in our society ; postpartum depression, and all manner of mental illnesses.  The author suggests that we are all crazy in our own way, and that only the degree of craziness varies among individuals.

The novel is written with two story lines – one of which is told in the form of journal entries.  The two plots run parallel to each other until the reader begins to suspect (or in my case gasps) when they realize just what the connection is between them.

My first Lisa Unger novel, but not my last.  I look forward to reading more by this talented author.  Recommended for thriller enthusiasts.  The pages will almost turn themselves.

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About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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