Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger (♦♦♦♦½)

Teenager Willow Graves has recently moved to small New England town The Hollows from New York City accompanied by her bestselling-novelist mother Bethany. Willow is unhappy in The Hollows and is seeing a psychologist due to her anger issues.

One afternoon, in which Willow is feeling particularly vulnerable after a joke gone wrong in class, she cuts her next class and flees school. Taking a shortcut through the woods, Willow hears a thumping noise and against good judgment gets close, finding an enormous man digging a hole in the ground. Scared that she has witnessed someone burying a body, she runs, but loses her cell phone in the process, which is recovered by the digger.

Bethany and Willow later receive a call from the stranger in the woods, wanting to return Willow’s phone. The man’s name is Michael Holt, and he tells Bethany, half joking, half serious, that he was actually disinterring a body, and he tells her a legend surrounding the iron mines below the Hollows Woods.

Soon people in town get involved in a cold-case investigation involving the disappearance of Michael Holt’s mother when he was fourteen years old. Jones Cooper, a retired-cop-turned PI, Eloise Montgomery, a psychic with a tragic past, and the Holts’ neighbors get sucked in. But bringing back the past is anything but easy for devastating suppressed memories will emerge as well as town folks’ dark secrets, and lives will be in danger.

I loved Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger. It is gritty, thrilling and very, very suspenseful and dark. The plot is very atmospheric; it sucks you in practically from the opening pages and doesn’t let you go until the end. I’ve come to realize, since this is the second book I’ve read by Unger, that in her stories bad weather is a central element of the plot; in Darkness, My Old Friend so is the paranormal.

It seems as if the reader is part of the story; yes, Unger is that gifted. All characters are well developed, so much so that they feel like people one would have encountered at any point in one’s life, even if the story is that tragic that (fortunately) doesn’t happen often.

I liked the character development of Willow. As teens Chelsea and Lulu in Heartbroken, Willow suffers complex transformations as result of what she goes through in the story. Lisa Unger writes about teens with understanding and sensibility. Two other great characters that practically jump from the pages are Eloise--for whom I felt compassion and empathy-- and Jones Cooper, a man who can’t see a lady in distress without jumping to her rescue, and in this novel that’s exactly what was needed.

In summary, Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger is a top-notch thriller that will stay with you beyond the last page.