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Ink and Bone: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Unger in Conversation
Tess Gerritsen: How did you come up with your main character in INK AND BONE, Finley Montgomery?
Lisa Unger: When I was writing FRAGILE, I ran into a character I wasn’t expecting, psychic Eloise Montgomery. I thought: Oh! A psychic! Even if she’s a fraud, that’s still interesting. But my characters have minds of their own and she only had a small part to play in that book — yet she stayed with me. She’s had a couple of books since then, three short stories, and in my upcoming INK AND BONE we meet her granddaughter Finley, who has powers of her own. Eloise’s story has told itself in a way that I wouldn’t have expected, and it has led me down some roads I didn’t imagine I'd go as a writer. This is, of course, the joy and the magic of writing. So I was struck while reading PLAYING WITH FIRE that you, too, had walked into some of the same territory. Was it a character, or a story, or curiosity about something else that led you there?
Tess Gerritsen: It was a nightmare! I was in Venice for my birthday, and after a night drinking a bit too much wine, I had a freaky dream. I dreamt I was playing my violin. A baby was sitting nearby, and as I played a dark and disturbing melody, the baby's eyes suddenly glowed red and she turned into a monster. I woke up wondering what it meant -- and knowing there was a story here. Something about the power of music to haunt and to transform people. That day I wandered around Venice and ended up in the old Jewish quarter. There I saw memorial plaques dedicated to the Venice Jews who were deported to death camps during WWII. That's when both parts of the novel came to me -- a story about a 1930s Jewish composer whose haunting melody will nearly destroy the life of a woman violinist 70 years later. I'm already a violinist (strictly amateur) with a lifelong love of music, and that knowledge helped inform the musical aspects of the story.
Was there anything from your own life that worked its way into INK AND BONE? Some part of yourself that slipped into the character or plot?
Lisa Unger: I have an enduring fascination with the idea of psychic phenomena in the Jungian sense, that it might be considered a natural extension of normal human ability. In my other life in publishing, I had a chance to work with psychic John Edwards. In a weird way, though this was many years ago, he was the inspiration for Eloise Montgomery. The fictional town in which INK AND BONE is set, The Hollows, first showed up in FRAGILE, which was very loosely based on a real event from my past. Though I didn’t see it at the time, The Hollows shares certain similarities with the place where I grew up. So, in a lot of ways I suppose I’m dreaming on the page, the real and the imagined get twisted into fiction.
Tess Gerritsen: I’m intrigued by the fact your character in INK AND BONE was inspired by your work with psychic John Edwards. I love hearing about the research. It is the part I enjoy most about writing, because I can delve into new worlds. As a writer I've attended autopsies, watched the CT scan of a mummy, and scouted Boston for the best places to dump a body. What lengths have you gone to get the details right?
Lisa Unger: Most writers are explorers. I like to think of myself as a spelunker, shimming into the dark spaces between things I don’t understand to try finding answers. So, yes, research (and life) is an important part of the process.
I’ve taken a concealed weapons course (and absolutely hated the feeling of firing a gun). I’ve interviewed a woman who claimed to be a ghost hunter. One of my closest friends is a retired Federal Agent who, if he doesn’t know the answers to my million questions, can always find someone who does. I lived with a New York City police officer for eight years – okay, so that was a relationship, and a pretty bad one at that. But in the end I just wound up with a good knowledge of police work and fantastic recipe for roast pork -- which I guess is something. I’ve been lava tubing in Iceland (not sure where that’s going to turn up, but I’m guessing it will). Recently, I’ve become obsessed with birds. I’m an information junkie. I’m constantly reading non-fiction in all areas with a special focus on psychology, addiction, trauma, biology and the brain. For me, more than the nuts and bolts of procedure, its human nature and the mind, and where those things intersect with nurture and spirituality, that fascinate me. Much of INK AND BONE is laced through with those themes.
What themes do you find come up again and again in your novels? Have you ever been surprised by a recurring question or idea that surfaces without your realizing it?
Tess Gerritsen: I too hated firing a gun. I was painfully aware that if I was the slightest bit careless and didn't stay in control of where it was pointed, someone could die.
When I'm writing, I'm thinking primarily about characters and plot, and it's only in retrospect that I understand what the theme might be. You asked whether I've been surprised by recurring questions that seem to surface in my books, and the answer is: yes, absolutely.
When I was a child, I adored a family friend named Uncle Mike, who served very much as a father figure for me. He was a gentle soul who counseled me about school, life, and love. Then when I turned eighteen, Uncle Mike was arrested for murdering his sister-in-law. I was stunned because I never saw that violent side of him, and it led me to question whether anyone is who they seem to be. That's the theme I return to again and again -- which smiling face hides the monster? In a way, it's a universal theme for crime writers, the evil that lurks in the hearts of seemingly ordinary human beings.
Lisa Unger: When I was fifteen, a girl I knew was abducted and murdered. We lived in a small, supposedly safe town, the kind of place you move to give your kids a happy, suburban upbringing. And then, on a day like any other day, a girl walking home from school fell victim to a monster. I never saw the world the same way again. The theme of the lost girl runs through almost all of my novels in one way or another, never with my intending it and always obvious to me only after the book is done. I think most of us are metabolizing fear on the page, and looking to put order to the chaos we perceive in the world. Maybe that’s why people read crime fiction, as well — because there’s a beginning, middle, and an end where some kind of justice is served. Not always so in the real world.
I’m writing pretty close to the bone. I follow the voices in my head, and so far they’ve all been pretty dark and twisted, wrestling with questions of identity, struggling with everything from addiction to body dysmorphic disorder to hauntings. I have a voracious curiosity about people and all the different things that make us who we are. If someone else turns up with something different to explore, I’ll certainly honor that. For me that’s the joy of writing, following character voice wherever it takes me.
“Ink and Bone is like The Sixth Sense on steroids—a dark, dazzling tale in which the light manages to shine through on things that really do go bump in the night." —The Providence Journal
"Lisa Unger is building a sense of place for The Hollows that rivals Stephen King's Castle Rock for continuity and creepiness." —The News & Observer
"I experienced something pleasantly heartbreaking while reading Ink and Bone, Lisa Unger's latest mystery-thriller. This horrific, fast-paced novel succeeded in drawing me in by taking possession of my senses and controlling the emotions I thought were mine. Literally... a true nail-biter." —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Unger makes the spectral realistic because anything can happen in The Hollows, and does. In her storytelling, the supernatural jump starts a story about fragile families seeking peace and fulfillment.... Without over violence, Unger delivers a frighteningly real villain who is able to hide in plain sight. Ink and Bone is a welcomed return to the haunting The Hollows." —Sun Sentinel
"A gut-wrenching tale of horror and mystery.... Strong characters and stellar writing make this a wonderful mix of small-town life with the supernatural." —Associated Press
"Unger builds the tension to high intensity.... Little by little, the truth is revealed to Finley and to the reader—a dark side that winds through the Hollows like the long-abandoned mines that snake beneath its surface.... Ink and Bone takes the reader into dire places, but into the light as well. And Finley? My psychic vibes predict she'll be back." —Tampa Bay Times
“Those voices appear on the page, and without much prompting become the interesting, dimensional characters that make her books so thrilling.” —Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“For those who like intense psychological mystery at its best. Unger provides." —The Florida Times-Union
"Lisa Unger has written the sort of novel that fans of Stephen King and Peter Straub used to eagerly anticipate. Many of her previous books have been dark, but this one is a full-fledged dive into the deep end of the horror pool. The result is an effective and unsettling supernatural tale that will leave you reeling." —Bookreporter.com
"Lisa Unger takes you to dark places then shows you the light. The universe she has created in The Hollows—the dead and the living, the haunted and the haunting, the lost and missing—resonates so deeply, it’s a world I want to go back to again and again and am always a little heartbroken to leave. In Ink and Bone, we return to The Hollows once more, and Unger weaves a story that casts a captivating spell, and will leave you feeling haunted long after you turn the last page." —Jennifer McMahon, author of The Night Sister
"Engrossing, atmospheric, and fast-paced, for fans of dark and twisty psychological suspense, Lisa Unger's Ink and Bone is not to be missed." —Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author of Most Wanted
"Instant page-turner! A race-against-the-clock thriller that brings together grieving families, small town secrets, and a troubled teen whose ghosts aren't just in her past." —Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her
"This is as chilling a tale as any the ingenious Lisa Unger has ever come up with. I've still got shivers!" —Robert Masello, #1 Amazon bestselling author of The Einstein Prophecy.
“Engrossing. . . the tension is palpable. Unger straddles the fine line between thriller and horror, making this a very exciting and riveting read, sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Kay Hooper or Stephen King fans." —Booklist (starred review)
“Unger's beloved characters continue a deftly balanced story that's supernatural without a creepy aftertaste.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Bestselling author Lisa Unger knows a thing or two about building suspense, and she piles on the twists in her latest thriller, Ink and Bone." —BookPage
"From Harlan Coben to Lisa Scottoline to Lisa Gardner to the team here at Suspense Magazine, we all say that Lisa Unger should be on your bookshelf." —Suspense Magazine
"Fans of the supernatural and psychological suspense will find this story entertaining." —Library Journal
Praise for Crazy Love You:
“Sharply drawn characters and occasional rest breaks of humor . . . Unger is adept at evoking the eerie, but she’s also capable of droll sociological commentary on the urban scene. . . . After reading Unger’s sinister thriller, anyone cavalier enough to think they can easily put the past to rest (and even live companionably with the dead) will think again.” —Maureen Corrigan, The Washington Post
“Exhilarating and gut-wrenching . . . Proves to be complex and surprising in several ways, and Unger has a gift for telling a story with great characters while also manipulating the reader. . . . It’s crazy good.” —Associated Press
“At first I thought I knew where Unger was driving me, but then she slammed on the brakes, turned and drove me right off a cliff.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Nothing is what it seems in this creepy romance novel.” —The Oklahoman
“Manages to keep us guessing.” —Raleigh News & Observer
“An extraordinary psychological thriller . . . Manages to do an incredible amount of things, all of them well, including a truly unique romantic triangle and the blurred lines between unconditional friendship and romantic infatuation. . . . A simmering tale of romantic obsession and angst in the tradition of Body Heat or Fatal Attraction, laced with the noirish spirit of James M. Cain. Wonderfully crafted and beautifully executed.” —The Providence Journal
"Crazy Love You kept me reading like a madwoman, desperate to find out what happens next. This is a haunting, compulsive tale that will have you under its spell long after you've closed the book." —Tess Gerritsen, author of Die Again
“Unger’s skillful portrayal of complex and traumatized characters make her latest psychological thriller one that will keep readers engaged from start to finish. . . . This imaginative tale . . . may be the author’s best work yet.” —Library Journal (starred review) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I really enjoyed how the book was really a blend of psychological thriller, crime mystery, and paranormal. Unger managed to make everything cohesive, without feeling as if things in the story were forced especially where the psychic element is concerned. As a whole, the thing that glues everything together is the human component. As much as the action and drama are occurring, she focused on the characters themselves and examining their mindset, how they’ve been affected by their circumstances. Unger never lets you forget that in the end, it’s about the people and having a connection with them that drives the story. You see how Finley is conflicted about her abilities. You read how Merri and Wolf’s marriage and family have been affected by Abbey’s abduction. You are there with Penny as she struggles to survive her horrible situation with Momma, Poppa and Bobo. In a book such as this, if you are not compelled by the characters and their circumstances, how can you care about what happens to them?
I was impressed by how Unger approach the psychic storyline involving Finley, Eloise and Agatha. While it’s acknowledge that it’s of the paranormal realm, there’s a realist quality to it. You didn’t feel like this story’s aspect was out of place. Instead it added an extra layer of intrigue to the story. And like everything else in the book, the thing that made it cohesive with the rest of the book is how it really was about the people instead of the ability itself. Through Finley and Eloise (and Agatha to an extent), you get the idea how the ability is as much of a burden as it is also a gift. It was a nice change of pace having this “gift” or “ability” portrayed in a less than desireable way instead of oftentimes being “omnipotent”.
Unger’s book had a little bit of everything: drama, suspense, thriller, mystery and paranormal. While it did have the psychic element, it never took focus away from the main story and the human aspect of the story. And this was where Unger succeeded with the book: keeping the story about the people themselves. This was the glue that made everything cohesive and flow smoothly, making for a wonderfully entertaining and engrossing read.
4.5 Stars out of 5
I received an advanced ebook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Ink and Bone hits the ground running. We find ourselves in the first chapter following a father and his two kids as they hike in the upstate New York woods. The idyllic scene of a young boy and girl tramping through the woods while dad yaks on his cell phone is swiftly shattered as shots ring out. Father and son are shot and left for dead, and the little girl is dragged away by a mysterious man wearing a baseball hat and carrying a very large gun.
We swerve–a bit jarringly–to the idyllic New York village of The Hollows, where we meet Finley Montgomery in her pink-haired, tattooed glory. Finley sees dead people. Well, what I mean is, Finley seems to have some sort of psychic ability, and she is in The Hollows to learn from her grandmother, Eloise, who is a psychic herself and a former police consultant. When the mother of the missing girl seeks out a local private detective in a last ditch effort to find her daughter, Abbey, Finley naturally gets drawn into the case.
Psychic stuff aside, Ink and Bone is really more of a clock-ticking thriller than anything else. The sense of time ticking away is strong throughout the book. The story is advanced through the viewpoints of multiple characters, including Finley (naturally), the girl’s parents, and the girl herself. The storyline weaves the past and present together to give us a slowly emerging picture of what happened the day little Abbey Gleason went missing, and the more we see of that picture, the more understanding we have of the direness of the situation.
The mystery surrounding Abbey’s abduction is done well. The non-chronological aspect of Unger’s storytelling sometimes gets a little confusing. She introduces things into the narrative without a lot of explanation. However, patience is rewarded as she will often go over things from multiple angles, so pages down the road, you will find yourself going “ohhhh,” about something you stumbled over earlier. The psychic aspect is done well, more icing on the cake of a good thriller than leading the book into the fantasy realm. Unger is careful to keep the story feeling grounded and gritty, even as Finley is seeing dead people. Unger’s characters also deserve a mention. You will not like everyone in this book, but by and large you will sympathize with most of them. Unger is careful to keep her characters from becoming cardboard cutouts. Everyone is flawed, some deeply so, but for most, Unger allows them their humanity; we can still empathize with them, even if we don’tn like them very much.
The climax comes with about a hundred pages left in the book, and it is incredibly well written. I had to stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning to finish the book, because I wasn’t going to be able to sleep until I knew what happened. I hate to use overplayed cliches like “gripping”, but holy hell, I’m not sure I could have stopped reading if I’d tried.
So: if you like thrillers, or mysteries, or paranormal stories, or are looking for a combo of the three, I can’t recommend this book enough. Unger is a talented writer with a great sense of suspense and pacing. This book seems to leave the door open for a sequel, and I very much look forward to that possibility.