Desert Isle Keeper
The Stranger Inside
I haven’t loved everything Lisa Unger has written. Some of her plots have felt a little too contrived for my liking, but her latest novel, The Stranger Inside, was a true joy to read. The plot is compelling, the characters feel completely authentic, and the story is just twisty enough to have kept me on the proverbial edge of my seat.
Rain Winter is only twelve years old when she and her two best friends – Tess and Hank – are approached in the woods near their homes by an unkempt stranger. Rain manages to run to safety, but Hank and Tess are abducted. Unfortunately, Tess is killed by their kidnapper, and Hank is kept prisoner for hours before managing to escape. Their abductor is sent to prison, but is later released, only to be murdered shortly afterwards in what police are calling a vigilante killing. The killer is never found.
All of this happens before the story actually opens. When we first meet Rain, she’s living a happy life as a journalist, wife, and mother. She never brings up the trauma she experienced as a child; in fact, most people in her life don’t even know what happened to her, but all of that changes when the body of another recently released prisoner is found in a nearby town.
There are quite a few things tying the recent murder to that of Rain’s kidnapper, and she can’t help but wonder if the two crimes could have been committed by the same person. She’s supposed to be taking some time off from her journalism career in order to raise her young daughter, but she finds it virtually impossible to distance herself from the investigation.
It doesn’t take long for Rain to practically live and breathe the case. She’s desperate to discover who is responsible for the murder, but even more important to her is the possibility that the killer is someone from her past, someone who knows some of the secrets Rain has been hiding for nearly twenty years.
There’s so much more going on in The Stranger Inside, but I want to preserve as much of the mystery for potential readers as possible, so I won’t say more about the plot.
One of my favorite things about the book is the way the story unfolds piece by tiny piece. I was sure I knew the whole story by the time I was halfway through, but I was so very wrong. Ms. Unger had several surprises in store for me, and I loved every one of them.
Rain might not be everyone’s favorite heroine. She does some incredibly stupid things during the course of her investigation, and I often found myself questioning her common sense. She’s a smart person to be sure, but her driving need to learn the truth gets in her way more often than not, and I wanted to shake her a few times. Fortunately, the author does a fantastic job helping the reader understand why Rain is acting in such irresponsible ways, and while I didn’t condone some of her risky moves, I could see why they felt necessary to her.
This is an incredibly dark book that delves into mental illness, child abuse, and all manner of other deeply disturbing subjects. Nothing about it feels sensationalized, but it’s a novel that might be too intense for some readers. The things depicted on the page are things that could easily happen in real life which added an extra layer of creepiness to the narrative.
The Stranger Inside is one of Lisa Unger’s strongest works, and I’m so glad I picked it up. She’s at the top of her game here, making this a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.