The Coopers – mom Maggie, a psychologist, dad Jones, a police detective, and their seventeen-year-old son Rick, are going about life as usual in The Hollows, a small town near New York City, when Rick’s girlfriend Charlene disappears. While it is unclear whether she ran away or was kidnapped, Jones works on solving the mystery while at the same time Rick is suspected to have something to do with her disappearance. And Maggie and Jones are reminded of another girl who disappeared years ago when they were teenagers. While that disappearance was solved, both Maggie and Jones have unanswered questions nagging at them about it, and the parallels to Charlene’s current situation are unavoidable.
I was expecting a standard mystery/thriller with Fragile as I’d heard a lot about Lisa Unger and from everything I knew about her, I assumed she was a standard mystery/thriller writer. Fortunately for me, while Fragile is undoubtedly a mystery, it is less of a thriller and more of a contemporary fiction novel. There is character development, relationship building, and multiple plotlines, all of which cause the reader to care not only about the mystery, but also about the characters within.
Have I said yet that I was pleasantly surprised by Fragile? If not, I really was. I enjoyed this novel much more than I was expecting to. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wanted to read Lisa Unger for a while, and I was expecting this to be a good read, just not good in the way that I got. I didn’t expect to find characters I could relate to, a story that I really fell into and began to care about, and a plot that moved along at a nice, brisk pace. The characters were so believable and their actions made perfect sense to me. I didn’t love all of their choices, but their personalities were crafted very well and their decisions were all in keeping with their characters. I like when I can see characters in books as real people, good, bad and otherwise, and when their actions make sense given what I know about them.
I have to be honest and say that I don’t think the mystery part of the story was crafted particularly well. That is, I guessed what happened with Charlene right from the start. I’m not sure if perhaps I was supposed to guess, and the point of the story was the getting there, as opposed to the not knowing, but I did know. But it didn’t really matter that it was obvious, because the rest of the book was so excellent. I didn’t care as much about the mystery as I did about the characters and their relationships and what would eventually happen to all of them.
Anyway, I really enjoyed Fragile and will absolutely reading more from Lisa Unger soon. I know she has been writing for a while but now she has a new fan in me!