Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Rain Winter has put her career as a producer on hold to be a full time mom. She and her husband agreed. But the tug of the newsroom becomes too much to bear when Steve Markham is murdered. 

Markham had been acquitted in the case of his wife's murder a year earlier. And Rain had been there to cover it. To say she'd been disappointed when the man was let go is an understatement. And Rain clearly wasn't the only one. 

Rain's sources hint that officials believe the case is connected to at least one, if not two others. Two other cases where killers who didn't pay for their crimes were killed after the fact. One of them the man who changed Rain's life forever. 

Rain was only twelve when she narrowly avoided being kidnapped. Her two best friends weren't so lucky. One of them escaped, the other was killed. Rain knows she's never fully healed from the trauma and believes diving back into work—diving into Markham's murder—could finally offer her some peace. But balancing motherhood and career isn't the only challenge she'll face. 

Lisa Unger's latest is a deep dive into childhood trauma, motherhood, and the current true crime obsession. And it's a dark dive indeed!

Rain and her husband have agreed that one of them should be home with their new baby. So Rain puts her career aside to do just that. But as pretty much any new mom who's had a career can attest, setting aside one chunk of yourself to devote yourself to being mom is hard! And the Markham case is unfinished business.

But she can't quite return to the newsroom. So she toys with the idea of a podcast, something that gets enthusiastic support from her old colleagues.

There's just one problem: she isn't sure how to broach the subject with her husband. She is sure, though,—convinced, in fact—that seeing the case to its conclusion and analyzing her own past will be cathartic. Will offer some release of the pain and guilt she's felt at avoiding her own abductor's hands. He was, after all, targeting her when he took her friends instead. And she's never been able to forget.

There is another POV featured in the book: Hank, the other survivor. Hank, who was once Rain's friend, is now a psychologist working with patients who've experienced trauma. Hank is helping people like himself heal and move on. Except we learn pretty quickly that Hank didn't heal and definitely hasn't moved on! So while some of Rain's biggest questions in any story—who, what, where, when, why, and how—may be known to the reader (and, at least in some small part, Rain), there are still a lot of questions that drive The Stranger Inside.

Different things strike different chords for every reader and for me, the strongest chord this one hit was motherhood. The guilt that goes with wanting to be an individual beyond "mom," the terror at trying to protect your child and keep them safe from the outside world, the uncertainty and fear that every step you take is the wrong one. Unger perfectly illustrates these feelings and more in Rain.

As I mentioned, this is a dark one. If cozies are your bag, The Stranger Inside is probably not at the top of your TBR. But if you're a fan of Mindhunter and true crime podcasts, Unger's latest should absolutely be on your radar!

No comments: