"The Red Hunter" by Lisa Unger; Touchstone (368 pages, $25.99)
Lisa Unger has built a best-selling career with unconventional mysteries that are strong on psychological twists and the dark forces that motivate some people. Her recent novels have revolved around residents of The Hollows, an idyllic-sounding town that tests its residents' moral compasses.
In "The Red Hunter," Unger takes a break from The Hollows and uses a house full of secrets and a legacy of violence to link her characters. Unger brings her trademark of intense suspense, believable characters and sharp plotting to "The Red Hunter," her 15th novel. Building on a theme of trauma and recovery, Unger explores the difference between justice and revenge in a tightly coiled plot that strikes with myriad surprises that continue to the last page. As one sage character muses, "Revenge seeks chaos. Justice seeks balance."
Zoey Drake has turned herself into a martial arts experts – teaching defense moves to at-risk girls in Manhattan during the day, occasionally meting out her own brand of justice to bullies at night. Her main target is finding – and punishing – those who killed her parents and left her for dead during a home invasion a decade earlier. The killers were seeking $1 million that Zoey's cop-father supposedly hid there.
That same house in the aptly named Lost Valley, N.J., is now being renovated by divorced domestic blogger Claudia Bishop, who lives there with her teenage daughter, Raven, after inheriting the home. About 15 years earlier, Claudia was raped in her Greenwich Village apartment and shortly after she learned she was pregnant. Raven knows about the rape since Claudia has written about it extensively and is pushing for a paternity test to know if she was a product of that crime. The buried money may be an urban myth, but it is still on the minds of the original home invaders, especially when one of them is paroled.
Unger expertly draws together the stories of the women, who are strangers to each other, while also showing the past and present of all the characters – including the criminals – and what brought them to their current state. Unger again delivers a frightening and gripping tale in "The Red Hunter."