Ink and Bone By Lisa Unger
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.