5 stars out of 5
Loving this one crept up on me, but once it got me in its clutches, it didn't let go till the end. I say that because for the first half-dozen chapters or so, I had to go slowly and reread parts because I just couldn't keep the characters and time frames straight. I attribute much of that to the aging process - I've transitioned from a multi-tasking whiz to one who must make a to-do list each day and then forgets where I put it. The chapters here shift back and forth, and on top of that focus on the past and present lives of two women (with plenty of other characters, both relatives and friends, thrown in). So until I got them all straight, it was a bit of a struggle (hence my actual rating of 4.5 stars).
But the book also is a great example of why it's important to keep plodding away. The story was intriguing (and well written) from the beginning, and once I was comfortable with the who's who, I was totally hooked. Had anyone interrupted me during the last quarter of the book, in fact, he or she would have incurred wrath comparable only to what happens when someone tries to make conversation before I've had my morning coffee.
The two women are Claudia Bishop and Zoey Drake, who are total strangers but share dark pasts. Claudia was brutally attacked, after which she became pregnant. For the most part unable to come to grips with what happened, her marriage falls apart, leaving her with daughter Raven, who is torn between wanting, or not, to know the identity of her birth father. As Claudia tries to build an audience for her blog, she inherits a crumbling old house and begins to renovate it in hopes of creating a fresh start for her and Raven.
Zoey, meanwhile, is trying to deal with a tragedy of her own; during a home invasion, she was severely injured and her parents were murdered by men who were looking for something valuable they believed her father, a homicide detective, had hidden. With help from her late father's step-brother, who took over her care, and down-and-dirty martial arts training, she survived the physical injuries. But the psychological trauma never went away, and now, bolstered by her physical prowess, she looks to quell the "red hunter" in her - the rage that's been building up ever since she lost her parents.
What neither woman knows, however, is that the house Claudia and her daughter Raven now occupy is the same house in which Zoey and her family were living on the fateful night of her parents' murder. Slowly, as secrets of the past are revealed (some surprising to me, others not so much), their lives come together and the tension builds.
The ending is filled with suspense and action, and all the loose ends are tied (or at least wrapped up so tightly that it's unlikely they'll unravel again anytime soon. This is a suspense novel not to be missed - I thank the publisher (via NetGalley) for the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
For the record, I read this book sometime in March. When I get advance copies of books, the occasional publisher will ask that all reviews be held till the day of official release. I dutifully comply, jotting the publication date on my calendar. But I'm always afraid somehow I'll miss seeing it - and that's exactly what happened this time (the book was released in mid-April). My apologies!
The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger (Touchstone, April 2017); 368 pp.