"The Stranger Inside"

“The Stranger Inside” by Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger’s skill at weaving complex but believable psychological thrillers that delve into characters’ deepest secrets takes another leap in the engrossing “The Stranger Inside.”

In her 17th novel, the Clearwater, Fla., author looks at the emotional ramifications of violence that can last for decades, and lie in one’s subconscious.

Rain Winter decided to take a hiatus from her job as a radio crime reporter and producer to be a stay-at-home mother to her year-old Lily. While her marriage to Greg is solid, and she revels in motherhood and the good life she now has, Rain also misses work, especially when a man who was acquitted of murdering his wife is himself murdered. Rain covered the trial of Steve Markham and almost took it personally when he was acquitted.

But Markham’s death appears to be the work of a vigilante who may be linked to the murders of other killers who were acquitted of their heinous crimes. One of those murdered was Eugene Kreskey, who attacked 12-year-old Rain and her friends Hank Reams and Tess Barker 22 years earlier. Rain and Hank, now a respected psychiatrist and author, survived; Tess did not.

“The Stranger Inside” follows Rain’s attempts to return to work part-time by covering the Markham murder and how Hank’s experience with trauma helps him work with his patients and the FBI. Unger carefully reveals bits of what happened to the three children and how that affects Rain and Hank. Neither have recovered from survivors’ guilt — their lives defined by “what happened” — though it manifests in different ways for each. They both know that “the pain inside” changes them.

The empathy that Unger shows toward her characters is matched by the suspense that drives “The Stranger Inside.”

“The Stranger Inside” by Lisa Unger; Park Row ($26.99, 384 pages)

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