Fragile, by Lisa Unger (2010)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
FragileParts of this book are very good. And parts of it are not, making it a bit of a slog at times. This is my first book by Lisa Unger, and honestly, I won’t be looking her up any further. In Fragile, we meet Maggie Cooper, a psychologist in a small town where everyone knows each other, and each other’s history. Maggie couldn’t wait to leave, but returns when her father falls ill. She falls for Jones Cooper, the town detective, and settles in to raise a family. She and Jones have one son, Rick, who is nearly 18 and applying for college. When Rick’s musician girlfriend Charlene disappears (apparently a runaway), Jones suspects his son may have had something to do with it. It’s not that he doesn’t love his son; it’s that he knows from his own history colours how quickly things can spin out of control. Twenty-five or so years ago, another girl disappeared just as Charlene did. The race is on to find Charlene before tragedy strikes this town again. The premise is good, but the delivery falters somewhat. Unger is brilliant with relationships and sentiment. She exquisitely describes Maggie’s anguish as she realizes she cannot protect her son from pain and hurt, of Rick’s teenage love, and of the confusion and anger of Marshall, another teenager, abused by his father and abandoned by his mother. When it comes to mystery writing, however, Unger falters. Too many clues are mixed with too many narrators, too many red herrings and too many neatly tied endings. I may be too critical here. Mysteries were once my favourite genre, but of late they’ve lost their appeal. This one is certainly not going to draw me back.
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