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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 5, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a wonderful book about people changing their lives. It talks about how hard it is to make difficult changes in our lives-either good or bad. The story revolves about several people in flux:
*Jones Cooper- a retired cop who has to figure out what to do next with his life
*Willow Graves-a young teen-ager forced to move from New York City to the small town of Hollows after her parents divorce and quite unhappy about it
*Paula Carr-a mistreated housewife who must decide if living with her controlling husband is a good situation for her two young children and stepson
*Eloise- the town psychic who must decide if she should continue using her powers to help others or make a life for herself
*Michael Holt-wants to find out if his mother ran off and left him and his sister or if something evil has happened to her

When these characters meet and interact, all hell breaks loose. Willow sees Michael digging a grave, Eloise warns Jones about an alarming situation, Paula calls Jones for help and all of them discover moving forward, no matter how difficult, is a worthwhile goal.
The story is well written and told from the various characters viewpoints. This must be the new "in" thing as the last two books I've read, "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See and "Innocent" by Scott Turow, have been written in this manner. It can be quite effective but it is starting to be overdone.
This is a quite a page turner and an entertaining read.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 4, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This rich and wonderfully written story begins with three very disfunctional families in a town called "The Hollows".
It opens with Kevin and Paula Carr. Kevin is a controlling, lying, psychopath and Paula his apathetic wife are each living a lie.
Jones a retired police detective at 47, who is obsessed with his own death, and his wife Maggie Cooper a psychologist.
A recently divorced Bethany Graves and her troubled teenager Willow. Lastly, Eloise (a psychic?) who strangely brings all the story lines together.

This book isn't a mystery or thriller, per say, but an edgy juxtaposition on relationships. It is tense in some places and "whew" good in others. There are a few surprises, but one ending that is glaringly obvious. (Which was fine with me) It's the kind of book that when you're done, you have to read all the acknowledgements and re-read the first chapter or two.

This author has a great talent for telling a story that you are sure is going to go one way and it doesn't, and in a very short time having the reader completely relate to the characters, so much, that you are cringing thinking of what may happen to "XXX". It's fast paced and original, and if you like Lisa Unger you will love this book. If you haven't read any of her work this is a stand alone and a great place to start. Its not just a scary mystery/thriller novel, its somehow almost cathartic when finished.

I would love to see any of these characters especially Jones Cooper pop up again in another book, they were great.

I hope this review was helpful to you as it was difficult to give too much information without spoilers.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 9, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I liked this book very much. I was surprised to learn that it is a sequel of sorts to her previous book, "Fragile." If you can't remember what exactly happens in that book it might be helpful to reread it before starting this one. While this is a stand alone novel, there are some references to plotlines from "Fragile" and it just bugged me that I didn't remember things very clearly.

The main mystery, what happened to a young mother 20+ years ago is very interesting. I was definitely hooked on finding out what had happened, and also found the secondary plotlines compelling as well. Characters are well developed and sympathetic.

Everything is wrapped up pretty neatly at the end...maybe a couple of loose threads. Overall a great book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Unger reintroduces familiar characters from The Hollows as they face the unresolved issues of the past and attempt to move forward. Most familiar is ex-detective Jones Cooper and his psychologist wife, Maggie. At loose ends since retirement, Jones hasn't yet made peace with his tangled emotional history with his mother, but he has thrown himself into a new role as the neighborhood go-to guy, recently hired by a woman to locate her husband's ex-wife, the woman unavailable since her son came for a visit with his dad. A simple computer search becomes instead a race against time and a violent man with a hidden agenda. Concurrently, psychic Elise Montgomery is compelled to reveal a troubling presentiment to Jones; the long-unresolved abandonment of a husband and son by a mother still haunts Michael Holt after his father's death, the family home filled with the memories and detritus of years; and an unhappy teenager, Willow Graves, provides the catalyst in a drama that marries the secrets of the past to the threat of the present, two women at grace risk as a heartbreaking truth is about to be revealed.

Unger handles the disparate plot threads with her usual dexterity, although the psychological burdens of some previously-met characters become a bit overwhelming. The Hollows is a reservoir of generational memories, families burdened by past mistakes and a population skewed to an older demographic. Often predictable, ungovernable passions rend the fabric of troubled marriages, sowing the seeds of discontent and, sometimes, violence. I found the psychic touch a bit overwrought, but Unger is solid in her writing, if not always riveting. Luan Gaines/2011.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
From page 229 to 353 I enjoyed this novel a lot. I didn't do enough research before choosing this book because it simply must have been part of a series.

I had read the description and was expecting a thriller with some mystery aspects also. For the most part what I got was the inner feelings of rage, anger, and despair for character after character with very tenuous links to keep them connected with the overall story. Now retired from the police force Jones Cooper was spending all his time hiding from all kinds of psychological problems which had persisted throughout his life. There was something awful which happened in his past which was constantly alluded to but never explained. Bethany Graves was filled with all kinds of hangups because of her failed marriage and her decision to move from New York City to The Hollows. Willow Graves has the depths of angst usually associated with a 15 year old girl who doesn't want to be living where she is so she repeatedly acts out. Eloise Montgomery is a psychic who is allowing her gift to completely take over her mind and body. Kevin Carr is a sociopath, his wife Paula is trying to present to the world the appearance of the perfect wife. Michael Holt is filled with rage and anger and wants to find out what happened to his mother all those years ago when she disappeared. The list just goes on and on. And yet the character who could have given the most information was, for the most part, left sitting on the side lines.

The first 225 pages of this novel are included as Part One and it seems to consist mainly of delving into the psychology of each person in the novel and coming up with rage and anger. When Part Two finally began the story actually became interesting, thrilling, and the mystery was solved. Up until then it was not the style of novel I like to read. I think Lisa Unger is probably a writer whose work I would normally enjoy, provided all her books aren't like this, but I like to focus much more on the solving of a mystery and not so much on finding out about what went on in therapy sessions. If you are looking for psychology, this is your book. If you think you might be more interested in the thriller aspects, I would suggest that you check it out very carefully to be sure of what you will find here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 3, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I like Lisa Unger's writing style, the flow of her sentences and the way she takes readers into the characters' heads, but I had problems with this book. First, I would not call this a stand-alone read. Darkness, My Old Friend is the follow-up to Fragile, which I did not read. And while many series books can be read as stand-alones, this is not one of them. The first half of the book in particular was frustrating for me because characters kept dwelling on issues and traumatic events in their past but those events were never specifically mentioned. Unger relied on readers to remember these characters and the events from Fragile. Eventually, some of these characters' issues were clarified so the story made more sense, though not all.

This book has several different plotlines running at once, with tenuous threads holding all of the characters and subplots together. Because of this, and possibly because I had not read the first book, I didn't feel a strong connection to any specific characters. The suspense aspect was more psychological than mystery, which requires a better understanding of the characters' background than Unger offered.

Overall, this is a good read that could be made much better by clarifying the background stories. I highly suggest reading Fragile first.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2011
Attended the release of Lisa Ungers tenth novel, Darkness My Old Friend!! Really excited to read and enjoy another journey! Lisa was so interesting, enthusiastic and gracious~~Love the cover for this book, looks spooky!!! Love it!!Encourage everyone to read, Darkness my old friend!! Remember Simon and Garfunkel's song ~~~~~ it's stuck in my head now!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 20, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Lisa Unger gets better with every book she writes. The opening of this book is electrifying. The characters in her stories are always genuine and interesting but in this book, the characters are riveting. They seem to compete with each other on the page. Kevin Carr is a thoroughly unlikable character, who is hypercritical of his wife, who only called to ask him to pick up diapers, and of everything else, except when he is looking down a 20-year-old store clerk's shirt, while contemplating that he is wearing more money than she will make in half a year. On the other hand, he's not sure which of his credit cards to pay with because they are all nearly maxed out. He calls divorce a cliché. By the end of the prologue, he pulls out the Glock he has hidden under the driver's seat and admires it in the light of the grocery store parking lot.

Then there is Jones Cooper, a police officer forced into retirement at the age of 47 by a shooting. He has become the stay at home mom in his neighborhood - people ask him to watch their houses while they are gone on vacation, feed their pets, get the mail. His wife was resentful of the time he devoted to the neighborhood until the neighbors started handing him gift cards and small gifts in appreciation for his help.

Eloise Montgomery, the psychic that Jones can't stand, doesn't just move slowly, "She moved with convalescent slowness up his drive, clutching a leather purse to her side." When Jones is rude to her because she wants to go inside and he doesn't want her in his house, she is thoroughly unfazed, continuing to walk up his driveway. "As she climbed the steps without invitation and stood at the door, he thought about how, with enough time and patience, a blade of grass could push its way through concrete." Jones is the concrete in the story, in his family, and in the lives of people around him.

The characters in this novel are brilliant and they just keep showing up in this book, one by one, chapter by chapter. The writing is so beautiful, the plot so interesting, that it doesn't matter that you can't see how all of the characters and storylines are related to each other. It all comes together and in the end, people are who they were all along, but changed by the events, irretrievably changed, some for the better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In Lisa Unger's first book about The Hollows ("Fragile") we visit a quiet idyllic scenic little town where murder and deception seem to run as an undercurrent. In "Darkness, My Old Friend," the cast returns, with some additions, to unravel another web of past wrongs. I can't help but think that moving to The Hollows is like moving next door to Jessica Fletcher in "Murder She Wrote." Sure, everything seems nice and normal... but there's an alarming murder rate in a tiny town.

"Darkness, My Old Friend" picks up where "Fragile" left off, and I would recommend reading them in order so you can follow its cast of characters in their lives.

Jones Cooper, the former police detective who almost died in "Fragile" and is now obsessed with death and what he's supposed to do after his forced retirment. He is married to Maggie Jones, the ever-sensible and sensitive psychologist and coincidentally the therapist to another character in the book. Then there's Eloise Montgomery, the psychic who helped unravel the case in "Fragile," who returns with new insights for the town and new insights for the reader as to her "calling." There's Mr. Ivy, the school principal who never got over his unrequited love for a woman who disappeared many years earlier.

Unger adds some new characters to the mix:

Willow Graves, troubled high school student, fresh in from New York City and hating everything about the Hollows. Her mom is an award winning writer, escaping from a nasty divorce from Willow's step-father.

Michael Holt, a man with a lot of anger, returns to the Hollows after the death of his father, obsessed with finding out what happened to his mother, who disappeared when he was a young boy.

And Kevin Carr, a failing businessman and control freak, who's planning something unsavory for his sweet-natured wife and two small children.

One day, when Willow has ditched school is is taking a route home through the woods, cursing the lack of cell phone reception, she comes across a large frightening man (Michael Holt) who appears to be burying someone. Her cell phone rings. He spots her and gives chase. She drops the cell phone and runs for her life.

Let the intrigue begin.

If you are now tempted, here are the top ten things that are great about "Dartkness, My Old Friend."

10. The notion that there are small towns where everyone knows everyone, where aging neighbors went to high school together, where various characters have a past with other characters because they've been the same small town all their lives.

9. Great dialog. Unger has an ear for it, and each character's dialog flows smoothly, yet each is unique.

8. Lisa Unger writes some of the best disenfranchised teens around. I'm guessing she had pretty angst-filled teen years, with lots of loathing, despair, and not fitting in. Just a wild guess on my part...)

7. The agony of being the parent of a difficult teen. I'm guessing Unger has some experience here, too. She perfectly captures a conscientious sypathetic parent's struggle to protect, guide, raise, reel in, set limits, reinforce, and live through the teen years. And you know it don't come easy.

6. Her characters evolve. They grow, they learn, they gain new insights. Except for the control freak bankrupt businessman. He just gets what he deserves, and that works, too.

5. A very interesting description of psychics. The psychic character - Eloise - gained her powers when she was in a near-fatal car accident, and was in a coma for weeks. Certain objects bring images to her more clearly. Sometimes she has no idea what these "visits" mean. For non-believers, it will make you think about it more. For believers, it will make you question psychics who predict with ease.

4. Interesting flawed quirky characters: the principal who's always a bridesmaid, never a bride, who was always secretly in love with someone, the mom struggling to hold her life and family together with her abusive controlling husband as she looks for a way out, the ever-watchful nasty neighbor who sees all and hoards her secrets like a miser with gold...

3. Twisted back-stories. Reach into anyone's past in this idyllic town and you'll find tangled webs of deception and heartache and secrets. Unger unravels these threads beautifully.

2. A great build. The tension mounts, the pace quickens, jeopardy becomes huge. As you near the end you'll read faster and faster.

1. Unger gives good story. Something creepy happened long ago that everyone buried and tried to forget, until someone came along and started it up all over again, drawing more and more people in.

It's a good fast-paced read, and I look forward to the next book in the Hollows. But I wouldn't want to live there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
In DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, Lisa Unger brings us back to The Hollows, the suburban New York town where Fragile: A Novel was set. Many of the characters--including Jones and Maggie Cooper and their son Rick(y)--are also part of this new story, as are some we met only briefly in FRAGILE.

I don't often specifically recommend reading series books in order, because I find that with authors I enjoy, they write so that each of their stories can stand alone as well. This is absolutely true of both FRAGILE and DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, but in this case, if you haven't read either, I would recommend starting with FRAGILE. It's not absolutely necessary, but you'll appreciate the getting to know the characters from the start of their story.

DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND opens with Jones Cooper, now retired from The Hollows PD, at something of a loose end. Like many men of his generation, his identity and even his personality has always been tied to his profession. This story is about Jones, yes, and his wife Maggie, but it's also about characters new to The Hollows (or rather, new to us reading about The Hollows) including an author who has just moved there with her 15 year-old daughter and a man who grew up in The Hollows and has returned only to be met with...well, in the spirit of spoiling nothing about this tale, suffice to say that he goes digging (literally) and what he finds is not what he, or those around him, expect.

I really hope that this becomes a series. I like Jones and Maggie Cooper. I like that they're imperfect. I like that each character Lisa Unger creates is fully-formed, and dramatic events not maudlin and are bereft of melo(drama).

The darkness referenced in the title pervades the lives of each of the characters in the story, to a greater or lesser extent, just as it does each reader's life. But oddly, I wouldn't describe it as a "dark" story. I often equate "dark" with "heavy," and DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND is exactly the right weight.

DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND also includes elements that might be described as supernatural, but they're artfully handled so that even a skeptical reader such as me didn't find them interfering with the story, but rather contributing to it. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND also moves between timeframes--something that I sometimes find too head-spinning in stories--with a grace that underscores Lisa Unger's immense talent.

DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND weaves people, places and times into a story that is, in a word, captivating.
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