The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

redhunter(New)TheBook
The Red Hunter
By Lisa Unger
Publisher: Touchstone
ISBN13: 9781501101670
Pages: 359
Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Synopsis:

What is the difference between justice and revenge?

Claudia Bishop’s perfect life fell apart when the aftermath of a brutal assault left her with a crumbling marriage, a newborn daughter, and a constant sense of anxiety about the world around her. Now, looking for a fresh start with a home restoration project and growing blog, Claudia takes on a crumbling old house–one that unbeknownst to her has an ugly history and may hide long buried secrets.

For Zoey Drake the defining moment of her childhood was the horrific murder of her parents. Years later, she has embraced the rage that fuels her. Training in the martial arts has made her strong and ready to face the demons from the past–and within.

Strangers to each other, and walking very different paths in the wake of trauma, these two women are on a collision course–because Zoey’s past nightmare and Claudia’s dreams for her future take place in the same house. As Zoey seeks justice, and Claudia seeks peace, both will confront the terrifying monsters at the door.


(New) Thoughts

The Red Hunter is a tale of two female strangers whose paths have unknowingly been woven together by their own dark pasts. Claudia is a single mother working diligently to build a new life of happiness through the process of renovating an old house with her daughter. She longs to leave the brutal attack that flipped her life upside in the past and heal. Zoey is a fierce young woman who aims to confront the murder of her parents and her tragic history head on. Fate will weave a tangled web that eventually bring them and their demons together in a head on impact that will forever change their lives.

My initial reaction to The Red Hunter was to pick it up and devour it! I found myself instantly drawn to Unger’s fluid narration and writing style. Fortunately, I forced myself to settle into a slower pace and absorb this one over the span of a few days because this is a story that I feel is most rewarding when allowed to unfold slowly.

Character development was steady, offering substantial growth and establishing a solid connection with the reader. It was easy to identify with Claudia and Zoey. While each has chosen an entirely different course of action in life, there were constant factors in place that assured every decision and difference remained relatable and viable. Unger supplies a solid back story for our main protagonists while leaving the waters just muddied enough to fuel the mystery. They are credible and familiar, yet there is so much more to know.

Plot progression is well paced. The story starts out feeling a bit unhurried when compared to some thrillers, but I found this to be well warranted. The initially slower introduction allows the reader adequate time to familiarize themselves with not one but two protagonists.  Things soon pick up however, and a rapidly developing plotline draws the reader in as two separate lives begin to fall inline through the use of cleverly alternating timelines and point of views that come together seamlessly.

Lisa Unger’s writing is direct and smooth. She effectively creates an atmospheric experience that is as engaging as it is convincing while avoiding unnecessary and frivolous details. She sets a stage ripe with the air of mystery and no shortage of the unexpected. As a latecomer, I found The Red Hunter to be a terrific introduction to Lisa Unger’s writing.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a cup of red rooibos tea with a hint of almond and vanilla.

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13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

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13 Minutes
By Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN13: 9781250123855
Pages: 320
Genre: YA Mystery

Synopsis:

Natasha’s sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?

Natasha is the most popular girl in school. So why was she pulled out of a freezing river after being dead for thirteen minutes? She doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal.

Now Natasha’s two closest friends, who are usually her loyal sidekicks, are acting strangely. Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before, to help her figure out the mystery.

At first Becca isn’t sure that she even wants to help Natasha. But as she is drawn back into Natasha’s orbit, Becca starts putting the pieces together. As an outsider, Becca believes she may be the only one who can uncover the truth…which is far more twisted than she ever imagined.


(New) Thoughts

I am not even sure what direction to take this review as the book managed to successfully pull me in so many different ones. 13 Minutes left me spellbound and frustrated for a multitude of reasons. I was unable to put it down.

Natasha (Tasha) awakens to discover she was dead for 13 minutes after being recovered from a local river. With no recollection of the events preceding her death, she is haunted by the number 13. 13 books on the shelf, 13 steps. And why are her two best friends behaving so oddly? When an old friend Becca re-enters Natasha’s life, the truth slowly begins to surface. But sometimes reality is far more disturbing than anyone could predict.

13 Minutes is a stunning example of clever narration and character manipulation at its finest. Therein lied my very frustration and adoration for this compelling story. I despised every character in this book for a variety of reasons. These are some seriously malicious and self absorbed teenage girls. I grasped to find appreciation in each and only found the smallest semblance of relatability in Becca. Normally this would be detrimental for my relationship with a book, but here it works brilliantly. I found my dislike of each individual adding to the unreliable narrator effect and causing me to constantly second guess each theory as I developed it, creating that internal “tug or war” that I feel any good mystery should.

Pinborough manages to effortlessly alternate a series of events through first person point of view and dictated interviews, texts, therapy sessions and journal entries. Now this sounds messy and maybe overwhelming at first thought, but it is truly anything but! Superb execution of this approach supply the reader with a fast paced read that is shrouded in mystery from the first page to the last. Everything about 13 Minutes goes off without a hitch and delivers a whirlwind of an experience that resonates with something distinct, setting aside from other YA mysteries.

Worth note was an ingenious incorporation of the school production of The Crucible that seems to beautifully compliment the unfolding story as there is a common underlying theme that felt relevant and added to the plot-line as a whole. I am not sure how intentional this was or if I chose to read more into it, but it works so well! Accompanied with detailed world building that thrusts the reader uncomfortably back into days of high school and cliques, the stage is set for a deliciously thrilling drama ripe with angst.

My only inkling of a complaint might be the conclusion. I did find the smallest hint of predictability (but not without a few unexpected turns) and might have favored something slightly different. The ending felt rushed, but I also blame this on my desire to keep exploring these poor twisted high school students.

Overall, this was a huge success in terms of YA Mystery and I will be revisiting the author’s work in the future. I confidently recommend this to all fans of mystery, YA and Adult alike. If you favor exploring the human psych a bit or taking a deeper look at crazy, this is a must!

*I would like to thank Netgalley and Flatiron books for this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with cup hot black tea flavored with vanilla.

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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Emma in the Night
By Wendy Walker
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
ISBN13: 9781250141439
Pages: 320
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.


(New) Thoughts

Emma and Cass Tanner disappear one night without a trace. Three years later, Cass arrives at her mother’s doorstep, alone. Desperate to find her sister Emma, she shares her incredible story of the events leading up to her return. What ensues is a tale that much darker and twisted than even forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter has imagined, and she has a few theories of her own since she original began the case three years ago. Just how deep can family secrets run?

Mysteries are always hard to review for me. Those worth reading are cherished for that elusive truth that one must work to uncover. Revealing too little or too much can be detrimental. And that is where Emma in the Night shines. Wendy Walker has established an unnaturally rewarding balance between the known and unknown. The reader is supplied with just enough ammunition to formulate several working theories, but left to ponder endless possibilities. The end result is an experience that is hard to walk away from and draws the reader further in with each page.

Told through the alternating points of view of Cass Tanner and Dr. Abby Winter, we are slowly exposed to both sides of this mysterious case. Cass is brilliant in terms of a protagonist. To label her as strong feels unjust. While she is not without insecurities and flaws that build her up as a credible character, she is a survivor. Her ability to acknowledge her own weaknesses and her family’s dysfunction with raw truth and play on these facts, weaves a fantastic tale full of questions that beg to be answered.

I found Abby to be less desirable as a main character, but not without merit. At times she felt too open and almost desperate. But her own history with a narcissistic parent played well into her role and provided some insight, albeit limited. I feel like saying she was without value is not warranted. But make no mistake, this is Cass’s story.

The world building is confined to an island and the Tanner’s home, but felt much larger in the grand scheme. The narration establishes an environment that is a familiar as it is foreign. Cleverly implementing elements of the known and uncertain, the likable and unlikable, Walker plays on the reader’s many emotions, engaging them on multiple levels.

The writing is perceptive and sharp. This is a prime example of a well-developed plot that has been executed flawlessly. It reads with an incredible ease and delivers a suspenseful tale that will leave readers thinking and rethinking with each new development.

Emma in the Night is for anyone who loves a dark story full of twists. If you enjoy a good dysfunctional family and mystery, this will be a welcomed and necessary addition to your shelves.

Untitled design Enjoyed with a warm cup of Earl Grey and a splash of milk.

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