Darkness, My Old Friend

( 28 )


The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies and Fragile returns to The Hollows, delivering a thriller that explores matters of faith, memory, and sacrifice.
After giving up his post at the Hollows Police Department, Jones Cooper is at loose ends. He is having trouble facing a horrible event from his past and finding a second act. He’s in therapy. Then, on a brisk October morning, he has a visitor. Eloise Montgomery, the ...
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Darkness, My Old Friend

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The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Lies and Fragile returns to The Hollows, delivering a thriller that explores matters of faith, memory, and sacrifice.
After giving up his post at the Hollows Police Department, Jones Cooper is at loose ends. He is having trouble facing a horrible event from his past and finding a second act. He’s in therapy. Then, on a brisk October morning, he has a visitor. Eloise Montgomery, the psychic who plays a key role in Fragile, comes to him with predictions about his future, some of them dire.

Michael Holt, a young man who grew up in The Hollows, has returned looking for answers about his mother, who went missing many years earlier. He has hired local PI Ray Muldune and psychic Eloise Montgomery to help him solve the mystery that has haunted him. What he finds might be his undoing.

Fifteen-year-old Willow Graves is exiled to The Hollows from Manhattan when six months earlier she moved to the quiet town with her novelist mother after a bitter divorce.  Willow is acting out, spending time with kids that bring out the worst in her. And when things get hard, she has a tendency to run away—a predilection that might lead her to dark places.

Set in The Hollows, the backdrop for Fragile, this is the riveting story of lives set on a collision course with devastating consequences. The result is Lisa Unger’s most compelling fiction to date.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Unger's gripping psychological thriller, a sequel to Fragile, 15-year-old Willow Graves, a recent Manhattan transplant along with her author mother, considers the sleepy upstate New York town of the Hollows the antithesis of cool. Life becomes more interesting after Willow spots caver Michael Holt in the woods, digging what she fears is a grave. As Michael, who explores caves and abandoned mines, later explains to Willow's mother, his mother disappeared more than 25 years earlier when he was 14, and he's eager finally to solve the cold case after his father's recent death. Former cop Jones Cooper, who retired after the traumatic events of Fragile, gets tapped by his police department replacement to help. But Eloise Montgomery, the Hollows' resident psychic whom Michael has consulted along with a private detective, has visions that point to tragedy for Jones if he joins the investigation. As with Fragile, the secluded nature of the town easily lends itself to long-gestating secrets, which Unger handles much better in this follow-up that's as much about uncovering the past as it is about accepting the future. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Willow spots a man digging up a dead body, then drops her cell phone as she flees. He returns it, explaining to her mom that he was hunting for an abandoned mine shaft. He also explains that he has been trying to figure out what happened to his long-gone mother; a psychic he's hired has a vision of a man named Jones, who's just resigned as Chief of Police because he was involved in a young woman's death. Okay, now you know why the publisher calls Unger's plots surprising. There's definitely something creepy going on in this latest from the New York Times best seller; read it to find out what, and let's hope Unger can take care of all those complications. With a reading group guide.
Kirkus Reviews

Unger (Fragile,2010, etc) resurrects characters from a previous novel and continues their journeys in this latest angsty thriller.

Bethany Graves and her teenage daughter, Willow, moved to The Hollows from New York City when the bestselling novelist divorced Willow's stepfather, a shallow, self-absorbed plastic surgeon. Thinking that the experience of small-town living might provide a cure for Willow's recent penchant of lying about everything, Beth settles into writing another book. She also jumps back into the dating game with Willow's high-school principal, Henry Ivy, a nice, nerdy sort of guy who has been nursing a secret for many years. But then, this is The Hollows, and everyone has some sort of secret in his past, including Jones Cooper, the retired cop resurrected from a previous novel. Jones has been doing odd jobs for the neighbors since he left from the force. Now, instead of chasing bad guys, he feeds the neighborhood cats and lets the repairman in while the neighbor's at work. But soon a former colleague comes calling and wants his help with a cold case, and a young mother seeks him out to find the missing mom of a classmate of Willow's. Before Jones knows it, he is back in the investigations business, but a local psychic warns him that she has seen a terrible vision involving him and, if her predictions hold true, this could be Jones' last case ever. Unger introduces a dizzying number of characters who seem to have little, if anything, in common except for their location, but manages to tie them all neatly together. Although the outcome is not exactly a shocker since Unger sprinkles clues like breadcrumbs along the way, it's a satisfying story with an eclectic and interesting cast of characters and believable dialogue. Unger shows her usual deftness at intricate plotting and explores the mother-child relationship from multiple angles, but too often refers to back story from a previous novel without explanation. That tendency often leaves readers wondering if they missed something along the way.

Sure to be another hit with Unger fans.

From the Publisher

Darkness, My Old Friend is deeply plotted and complex and carries an undeniable momentum. Lisa Unger's enthralling cast of characters pulled me right in and locked me down tight. This is one book that will have you racing to the last page, only to have you wishing the ride wasn't over.”—Michael Connelly

"Lisa Unger is one of my favorite authors.  She gets better and better with each book."—Karin Slaughter, New York Times Bestselling author of Fallen

“A satisfying story with an eclectic and interesting cast of characters and believable dialogue. Unger shows her usual deftness at intricate plotting and explores the mother-child relationship from multiple angles…Sure to be another hit with Unger fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

"The beauty of this unconventional crime novel is that focus is not on whodunit but the darkness that drives us."—Family Circle

"Verdict...one of Unger's best thrillers yet."—Library Journal, starred review

“Good reading, canny characterizations.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Unger skillfully pulls together various stories in an exciting and logical way. Darkness, My Old Friend" moves at a brisk pace as Unger makes us desperately want to know what drives these various characters."—South Florida Sun Sentinel

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307464996
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 490,430
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.46 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Unger
Lisa Unger is the bestselling author of ten novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and daughter.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Jones Cooper feared death. The dread of it woke him in the night, sat him bolt upright and drew all the breath from his lungs, narrowed his esophagus, had him rasping in the dark. It turned all the normal shadows of the bedroom that he shared with wife into a legion of ghouls and intruders waiting with silent and malicious intent. When? How? Heart attack. Cancer. Freak accident. Would it come for him quickly? Would it slowly waste and dehumanize him? What, if anything, would await him?

He was not a man of faith. Nor was he a man without stain on his conscience. He did not believe in a benevolent universe of light and love. He could not lean upon those crutches as so many did; everyone, it seemed, had some way to protect himself against the specter of his certain end. Everyone except him.

His wife, Maggie, had grown tired of the 2:00 a.m. terrors. At first she was beside him, comforting him: Just breathe, Jones. Relax. It’s okay. But even she, ever-patient shrink that she was, had started sleeping in the guest room or on the couch, even sometimes in their son’s room, empty since Ricky had left for Georgetown in September.

His wife believed it had something to do with Ricky’s leaving. “A child heading off for college is a milestone. It’s natural to reflect on the passing of your life,” she’d said. Maggie seemed to think that the acknowledgment of one’s mortality was a rite of passage, something everyone went through. “But there’s a point, Jones, where reflection becomes self-indulgent, even self-destructive. Surely you see that spending your life fearing death is a death in and of itself.”

But it seemed to him that people didn’t reflect on death at all. Everyone appeared to be walking around oblivious to the looming end—spending hours on Facebook, talking on cell phones while driving through Starbucks, reclining on the couch for hours watching some mindless crap on television. People were not paying attention—not to life, not to death, not to one another.

“Lighten up, honey. Really.” Those were the last words she’d said to him this morning before she headed off to see her first patient. He was trying to lighten up. He really was.

Jones was raking leaves; the great oaks in his yard had started their yearly shed. There were just a few leaves now. He’d made a small pile down by the curb. For all the years they’d been in this house, he’d hired someone to do this work. But since his retirement, almost a year ago now, he’d decided to manage the tasks of homeownership himself—mowing the lawn, maintaining the landscaping, skimming the pool, washing the windows, now raking the leaves, eventually shoveling the snow from the driveway. It was amazing, really, how these tasks could fill his days. How from morning to night, he could just putter, as Maggie called it—changing lightbulbs, trimming trees, cleaning the cars.

But is it enough? You have a powerful intellect. Can you be satisfied this way? His wife overestimated him. His intellect wasn’t that powerful. The neighbors had started to rely on him, enjoyed having a retired cop around while they were at work, on vacation. He was letting repair guys in, getting mail, and turning on lights when people were away, checking perimeters, keeping his guns clean and loaded. The situation annoyed Maggie initially—the neighbors calling and dropping by, asking for this and that—especially since he wouldn’t accept payment, even from people he didn’t really know. Then people started dropping off gifts—a bottle of scotch, a gift certificate to Grillmarks, a fancy steakhouse in town.

“You could turn this into a real business,” Maggie said. She was suddenly enthusiastic one night over dinner, paid for by the Pedersens. Jones had fed their mean-spirited cat, Cheeto, for a week.

He scoffed. “Oh, yeah. Local guy hanging around with nothing to do but let the plumber in? Is that what I’d call it?”

She gave him that funny smile he’d always loved. It was more like the turning up of one corner of her mouth, something she did when she found him amusing but didn’t want him to know it.

“It’s a viable service that people would pay for and be happy to have,” she said. “Think about it.”

But he enjoyed it, didn’t really want to be paid. It was nice to be needed, to look after the neighborhood: to make sure things were okay. You didn’t stop being a cop when you stopped being a cop. And he wasn’t exactly retired, was he? He wouldn’t have left his post if he hadn’t felt that it was necessary, the right thing to do under the circumstances. But that was another matter.

The late-morning temperature was a perfect sixty-eight degrees. The light was golden, the air carrying the scent of the leaves he was raking, the aroma of burning wood from somewhere. In the driveway Ricky’s restored 1966 GTO preened, waiting for him to come home from school next weekend. Jones had it tuned up and detailed, so it would be cherry when the kid got back.

He missed his son. Their relationship through the boy’s late adolescence had been characterized, regrettably, by conflict more than anything else. Still, he couldn’t wait for Ricky to be back under his roof again, even if it was just for four days. If anyone told him how much he’d really, truly miss his kid, how he’d feel a squeeze on his heart every time he walked by that empty room, Jones wouldn’t have believed it. He would have thought it was just another one of those platitudes people mouthed about parenthood.

He leaned his rake against the trunk of the oak and removed his gloves. A pair of mourning doves cooed sadly at him. They sat on the railing of his porch, rustling their tawny feathers.

“I’m sorry,” he said, not for the first time. Earlier, he’d removed the beginning of their nest, a loose pile of sticks and paper that they managed somehow to place in the light cover of his garage door’s opening mechanism. Mourning doves made flimsy nests, were lazy enough to even settle in the abandoned nests of other birds. So the garage must have seemed like a perfect residence for them, offering protection from predators. But he didn’t want birds in the garage. They were harbingers of death. Everyone knew that. They’d been hanging around the yard, giving him attitude all morning.

“You can build your nest anywhere else,” he said, sweeping his arm over the property. “Just not there.”

They seemed to listen, both of them craning their necks as he spoke. Then they flapped off with an angry, singsong twitter.

“Stupid birds.”

He drew his arm across his forehead. In spite of the mild temperatures, he was sweating from the raking. It reminded him that he still needed to lose those twenty-five pounds his doctor had been nagging him about for years. His doctor, an annoyingly svelte, good-looking man right around Jones’s age, never failed to mention the extra weight, no matter the reason for his visit—flu, sprained wrist, whatever. You’re gonna die one of these days, too, Doc, Jones wanted to say. You’ll probably bite it during your workout. Whaddaya clocking these days—five miles every morning, more on the weekends? That’ll put you in an early grave. Instead Jones just kept reminding him that the extra weight around his middle had saved his life last year.

“I’m not sure that’s a compelling argument,” said Dr. Gauze. “What are the odds of your taking another bullet to the gut, especially now that you’re out to pasture?”

Out to pasture? He was only forty-seven. He was thinking about this idea of being out to pasture as a beige Toyota Camry pulled up in front of house and came to a stop. He watched for a second, couldn’t see the person in the driver’s seat. When the door opened and a slight woman stepped out, he recognized her without being able to place her. She was too thin, had the look of someone robbed of her appetite by anxiety. She moved with convalescent slowness up his drive, clutching a leather purse to her side. She didn’t seem to notice him standing there in the middle of his yard. In fact, she walked right past him.

“Can I help you?” he said finally. She turned to look at him, startled.

“Jones Cooper?” she said. She ran a nervous hand through her hair, a mottle of steel gray and black, cut in an unflatteringly blunt bob.

“That’s me.”

“Do you know me?” she asked.

He moved closer to her, came to stand in front of her on the paved drive that needed painting. She was familiar, yes. But no, he didn’t know her name.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Have we met?”

“I’m Eloise Montgomery.”

It took a moment. Then he felt the heat rise to his cheeks, a tension creep into his shoulders. Christ, he thought.

“What can I do for you, Ms. Montgomery?”

She looked nervously around, and Jones followed her eyes, to the falling leaves, the clear blue sky.

“Is there someplace we can talk?” Her drifting gaze landed on the house.

“Can’t we talk here?” He crossed his arms around his middle and squared his stance. Maggie would be appalled by his rudeness. But he didn’t care. There was no way he was inviting this woman into his home.

“This is private,” she said. “And I’m cold.”

She started walking toward the house, stopped at the bottom of the three steps that led up to the painted gray porch, and turned around to look at him. He didn’t like the look of her so near the house, any more than he did those doves. She was small-boned and skittish, but with a curious mettle. As she climbed the steps without invitation and stood at the door, he thought about how, with enough time and patience, a blade of grass could push its way through concrete. He expected her to pull open the screen and walk inside, but she waited. And he followed reluctantly, dropping his gardening gloves beside the rake.

The next thing he knew, she was sitting at the dining-room table and he was brewing coffee. He could see her from where he stood at the counter. She sat primly with her hands folded. She hadn’t taken off her pilled houndstooth coat, was still clutching her bag. Those eyes never stopped moving.

“You don’t want me here,” she said. She cast a quick glance in his direction, then looked at her hands. “You wish I would go.”

He put down the mugs he was taking from the cabinet, banging them without meaning to.

“Wow,” he said. “I’m impressed. You really are psychic.”

He didn’t bother to look at her again, let his eyes rest on the calendar tucked behind the phone. He had an appointment with his shrink in a few hours, something he dreaded. When he finally gazed back over at her, she was regarding him with a wan smile.

“A skeptic,” she said. “Your wife and mother-in-law offer more respect.”

“Respect is earned.” He poured the coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked. He thought she’d say black.

“Light and sweet, please,” she said. Then, “And what should I do to earn your respect?”

He walked over with the coffee cups and sat across from her.

“What can I do for you, Ms. Montgomery?”

It was nearly noon. Maggie’s last morning session would end in fifteen minutes, and then she’d come out for lunch. He didn’t want Eloise sitting here when she did. The woman could only bring back bad memories for Maggie, everything they’d suffered through in the last year and long before. He didn’t need it, and neither did his wife.

“Do you know about my work?” Eloise asked.

Work. Really? Is that what they were calling it? He would have thought she’d say something like gift, or sight. Or maybe abilities. Of course, she probably did consider it work, since that was how she earned her living.

“I do,” he said. He tried to keep his tone flat, not inquiring or encouraging. But she seemed to feel the need to explain anyway.

“I’m like a radio. I pick up signals—from all over, scattered, disjointed. I have no control over what I see, when I see it, the degree of lucidity, the power of it. I could see something happening a world away, but not something right next door.”

He struggled not to roll his eyes. Did she really expect him to believe this?

“Okay,” he said. He took a sip of his coffee. He didn’t like the edgy, anxious feeling he had. He felt physically uncomfortable in the chair, had a nervous desire to get up and pace the room. “What does this have to do with me?”

“You’re getting a reputation around town, you know. That you’re available to help with things—checking houses while people are away, getting mail.”

He shrugged. “Just in the neighborhood here.” He leaned back in his chair, showed his palms. “What? Are you going on vacation? Want me to feed your cat?”

She released a sigh and looked down at the table between them.

“People are going to start coming to you for more, from farther away,” she said. “It might lead you places you don’t expect.”

Jones didn’t like how that sounded. But he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of reacting.

“Okay,” he said, drawing out the word.

“I wanted you to be prepared. I’ve seen something.”

When she looked back up at him, her eyes were shining in a way that unsettled him. Her gaze made him think for some reason of his mother when he found her on the bathroom floor after she’d suffered a stroke. He slid his chair back from the table and stood.

“Why are you telling me this?” He leaned against the doorway that led to the kitchen.

“Because you need to know,” she said. She still sat stiff and uncomfortable, hadn’t touched the coffee before her.

Okay, great. Thanks for stopping by. Don’t call me, I’ll call you. Let me show you out. Instead, because curiosity always did get the better of him, he asked, “So what did you see?”

She ran a hand through her hair. “It’s hard to explain. Like describing a dream. The essence can be lost in translation.”

If this was some kind of show, it was a good one. She seemed sincere, not put on or self-dramatizing. If she were a witness, he would believe her story. But she wasn’t a witness, she was a crackpot.

“Try,” he said. “That’s why you came, right?”

Another long slow breath in and out. Then, “I saw you on the bank of a river . . . or it could have been an ocean. Some churning body of water. I saw you running, chasing a lifeless form in the water. I don’t know what or who it was. I can only assume it’s a woman or a girl, because that’s all I see. Then you jumped in—or possibly you fell. I think you were trying to save whoever it was. But you were overcome. You weren’t strong enough. The water pulled you under.”

Her tone was level, unemotional. She could have been talking mildly about the weather. And the image, for some reason, failed to jolt or disturb him. In that moment she seemed frail and silly, a carnival act that neither entertained nor intrigued.

The ticking of the large grandfather clock in the foyer seemed especially loud. He had to get rid of that thing, a housewarming present from his mother-in-law. Did he really need to hear the passing of the minutes of his life?

“You know, Ms. Montgomery,” he said, “I don’t think you’re well.”

“I’m not, Mr. Cooper. I’m not well at all.” She got up from the table, to his great relief, and started moving toward the door.

“Well, should I find myself on the banks of a river, chasing a body, I’ll be sure to stay on solid ground,” he said, allowing her to pass and following her to the door. “Thanks for the warning.”

“Would you? Would you stay on solid ground? I doubt it.” She rested her hand on the knob of the front door but neither pulled it open nor turned around.

“I guess it depended on the circumstances,” he said. “Whether I thought I could help or not. Whether I thought I could manage the risk. And, finally, who was in the water.”

Why was he even bothering to have this conversation? The woman was obviously mentally ill; she belonged in a hospital, not walking around free. She could hurt herself or someone else. She still didn’t turn to look at him, just bowed her head.

“I don’t think you can manage the risk,” she said. “There are forces more powerful than your will. I think that’s what you need to know.”

For someone as obsessed with death as Jones knew himself to be, he should have been clutching his heart with terror. But, honestly, he just found the whole situation preposterous. It was almost a relief to talk to someone who had less of a grip on life than he did.

“Okay,” he said. “Good to know.”

He gently nudged her aside with a hand on her shoulder and opened the door.

“So when do you imagine this might go down? There’s only one body of water in The Hollows.” The Black River was a usually gentle, gurgling river at the base of a glacial ravine. It could, in heavy rains, become quite powerful, but it hadn’t overflowed its banks in years. And the season had been dry.

She gave him a patient smile. “I don’t imagine, Mr. Cooper. I see, and I tell the people I need to tell to make things right. And if not right precisely, then as they should be. That’s all I do. I used to torture myself, trying to figure out where and when and if things might happen. I used to think I could save and help and fix, drive myself to distraction when I couldn’t. Now I just speak the truth of my visions. I am unattached to outcomes, to whether people treat me with respect or hostility, to whether they listen or don’t.”

“So they’re literal, these visions,” he asked. He didn’t bother to keep the skepticism out of his voice. “You see something and it happens exactly that way. It’s immutable.”

“They’re not always literal, no,” she said.

“But sometimes they are?”

“Sometimes.” She gave a careful nod. “And nothing in life is immutable, Mr. Cooper.”

“Except death.”

“Well . . .” she said. But she didn’t go on. Was there an attitude about it? As if she were a teacher who wouldn’t bother with a lesson that her student could never understand.

She moved through the door and let the screen close behind her. He didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing, just watched as she stiffly descended the steps. She turned around once to look at him, appeared to have something else to say. But then she just kept walking down the drive. Her pace seemed brisker, as if she’d lightened her load. She didn’t seem as frail or unwell as she had when he’d first seen her. Then she got into her car and slowly drove away.

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Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Lisa Unger’s extraordinary novel, Darkness, My Old Friend, which Michael Connelly hailed as a “book that will have you racing to the last page, only to have you wishing the ride wasn’t over.” 

1. Why is Jones drawn into the conversation with Eloise despite his initial impatience and skepticism? In what ways does Eloise’s demeanor and her explanation of her psychic experiences influence his—and the reader’s—response to her and her message?

2. What underlies Willow’s provocative behavior toward her teacher, Mr. Vance, and her boast that “here she was a freak and proud of it” [pp. 28]? Is her behavior understandable—perhaps even inevitable—for a teenager trying to adjust to an unfamiliar place?

3. How would you describe the relationship between Willow and her mother, Bethany? Are they more attuned to each other than most teenage daughters and their mothers? Do Bethany’s own vulnerabilities and doubts influence her treatment of Willow?

4. What does the session with his therapist reveal about how Jones defines himself [p. 54-61]?

5. Is his resistance to therapy typical of a man his age and circumstances? What impact do his conversations with Maggie have on his feelings about the value of therapy [p. 81-84; p.90-93]? Are there similarities between the skills of a therapist and those of a detective?

6. "On bad days—and there were many really, truly bad days—it was a curse.  On the good days, it was a gift” [p. 68]. What techniques or attitudes has Eloise developed to help her deal with the sudden intrusion of psychic events in her everyday life?  Is she right to share her visions even though their messages are difficult to interpret and act upon?

7. Compare Michael Holt’s behavior during meeting with Bethany [pp. 75-78] and his manner and thoughts as he tries to piece together the truth about what happened to his mother [pp. 94-108]. What do these scenes show about the way his mind works?  How does the author manage to simultaneously stimulate the reader’s curiosity, empathy, and suspicions? 

8. Unger introduces the coldly calculating Kevin Carr in the preface. A fuller picture of him and his marriage comes to light through his wife, Paula [pp. 157-170].  What does Unger achieve by using this device? In what ways do Paula’s questions and uncertainties about Kevin represent the larger concerns of the novel?

9. Darkness, My Old Friend offers two different perspectives on parenting: Dr. Maggie Cooper tells Bethany, “It’s always our instinct to feel like we’ve failed when our kids are suffering. But it’s not always our fault,” while Bethany believes that “parents were responsible for their kids, plain and simple” [p. 183]. How do these views apply to the following sets of parents and children: Willow and Bethany; Eloise and her daughter, Amanda; Michael and his mother and father; Cole and his mother, Robin; his father, Kevin; and his stepmother, Paula; and Jones, who harbors guilt and uneasiness about his “sick relationship with his mother” [p. 56]?

10. During therapy with Maggie, it emerges that  “For years Willow had been telling little lies to friends and her parents about meaningless things.... She liked the thrill of it, the making up of events...the reactions she got” [p. 256].  What are the ramifications, both positive and negative, of her tendency to make up stories? 

11. What was your reaction when you found out what happened to Marla Holt?  As she weaves together the separate threads of the novel, does Unger give hints to the solution?

12. We learn a lot about the characters through flashbacks and  “back stories” interspersed in the chapters devoted to their present-day situations and actions. What effect does this have on the pace of the novel and the development of the reader’s sympathies?

13. What do the descriptions of the natural landscape, the older parts of the town, and the new developments capture about suburban America? In what ways does the physical environment help establish the ambience of the community? 

14. Unger’s portrait of Eloise offers a fascinating and unusually intimate look at the inner world of a psychic. What do Eloise’s own words and musings (p. 24, pp. 193-198, p. 238, p. 302, for example) the comments and observations Ray Muldune, Jones, and others throughout the book, and the vivid psychic event toward the end (p. 299) convey about the challenges, as well as the satisfactions, her work provides? 

15. From the Greek mythological figure Cassandra, to Oda Mae Brown in the movie Ghost, psychics have long been featured in works of fiction, television, and film. According to newspaper accounts, they have also played a role in real-life crime solving. What accounts for the continuing interest in psychic experiences and powers?

16. Discuss the literal and metaphorical resonance of the novel’s title. Which of the characters embrace darkness as friend, and why?

17. Darkness, My Old Friend is set in the same town and has many of the same characters as the author’s bestselling Fragile. If you’ve read Fragile, in what ways does Darkness develop and extend the themes of that novel?  Do the behavior and relationships portrayed in Darkness change your impressions of and feelings about Jones, Maggie, and Eloise?  Would you like to read another novel set in The Hollows?  If so, which characters would you like to learn more about?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Hard to keep reading this one!

    I have read all of Lisa Unger's books and bought this as an Ebook as soon as it was available. I was terribly disappointed, it seemed to drag on, and much of it seemed like filler. None of the characters were endearing. I skipped pages and still knew what was going on! Usually as I near the end of a book I can't wait to find out what happens and will continue reading into the wee hours to finish it. Not this one. I figured it out somewhere along the line, and even if I hadn't I didn't care how it ended. I just wanted it to end!!! I would recommend waiting until it comes out in PB, and not sure I'd even spend the one for a Paperback version.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good

    Well worth the price. I couldn't put it down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2012


    I have read other books by this author and enjoyed them. This one was boring and predictable. I couldn't wait to finish it. I will give the author another chance with her next book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    You are grabbed right from the start and doesn't let you go unti

    You are grabbed right from the start and doesn't let you go until you finish the last page. The author created great atmosphere, an exciting plot and emotionally charged characters. This is a wonderful book about dysfunctional families working on changing their lives. 100 miles away from Manhattan was the setting for this haunting and intriguing story. A worthy, interesting read..

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Doesn't Work As A Stand-Alone

    I like Lisa Unger's writing style, the flow of her sentences and the way she takes readers into the characters' heads, but I had problems with this book. First, I would not call this a stand-alone read. Darkness, My Old Friend is the follow-up to Fragile, which I did not read. And while many series books can be read as stand-alones, this is not one of them. The first half of the book in particular was frustrating for me because characters kept dwelling on issues and traumatic events in their past but those events were never specifically mentioned. Unger relied on readers to remember these characters and the events from Fragile. Eventually, some of these characters' issues were clarified so the story made more sense, though not all.

    This book has several different plotlines running at once, with tenuous threads holding all of the characters and subplots together. Because of this, and possibly because I had not read the first book, I didn't feel a strong connection to any specific characters. The suspense aspect was more psychological than mystery, which requires a better understanding of the characters' background than Unger offered.

    Overall, this is a good read that could be made much better by clarifying the background stories. I highly suggest reading Fragile first.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011


    I found there were too many story lines going on that really didn't come together too well. For example, there wasn't a lot of point in introducing Bethany and Willow to this story. Other than Willow being the one to see a man digging in the woods, they didn't have much to do with the actual mystery. The same applies to Paula and her family. The story really could have been told without them. All in all, it was a good idea but the central characters could have been developed much better and some of these minor story lines should have been left out. They just took away from the story in my opinion and added confusion. The suspense did build toward the end which was the best part. However, it was obvious what would happen almost from the beginning. Definitely not my favorite from this author.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    A story wrapped in the best kind of darkness

    In DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, Lisa Unger brings us back to The Hollows, the suburban New York town where FRAGILE was set. Many of the characters-including Jones and Maggie Cooper and their son Rick(y)-are also part of this new story, as are some we met only briefly in FRAGILE. I don't often specifically recommend reading series books in order, because I find that with authors I enjoy, they write so that each of their stories can stand alone as well. This is absolutely true of both FRAGILE and DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, but in this case, if you haven't read either, I would recommend starting with FRAGILE. It's not absolutely necessary, but you'll appreciate the getting to know the characters from the start of their story. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND opens with Jones Cooper, now retired from The Hollows PD, at something of a loose end. Like many men of his generation, his identity and even his personality has always been tied to his profession. This story is about Jones, yes, and his wife Maggie, but it's also about characters new to The Hollows (or rather, new to us reading about The Hollows) including an author who has just moved there with her 15 year-old daughter and a man who grew up in The Hollows and has returned only to be met with.well, in the spirit of spoiling nothing about this tale, suffice to say that he goes digging (literally) and what he finds is not what he, or those around him, expect. I really hope that this becomes a series. I like Jones and Maggie Cooper. I like that they're imperfect. I like that each character Lisa Unger creates is fully-formed, and dramatic events not maudlin and are bereft of melo(drama). The darkness referenced in the title pervades the lives of each of the characters in the story, to a greater or lesser extent, just as it does each reader's life. But oddly, I wouldn't describe it as a "dark" story. I often equate "dark" with "heavy," and DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND is exactly the right weight. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND also includes elements that might be described as supernatural, but they're artfully handled so that even a skeptical reader such as me didn't find them interfering with the story, but rather contributing to it. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND also moves between timeframes-something that I sometimes find too head-spinning in stories-with a grace that underscores Lisa Unger's immense talent. DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND weaves people, places and times into a story that is, in a word, captivating.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a fabulous investigative psychological thriller

    Following her divorce from her egomaniacal spouse bestselling author Bethany Graves and her fifteen year old daughter Willow move from Manhattan to The Hollows in Upstate New York. Bethany hopes the small-town will end Willow's tendency to prevaricate. Used to the bright lights of Broadway, Willow finds rusticating boring. Bethany begins her next novel while also dating nice high school Principal Henry Ivy.

    Willow observes Michael Holt dig what the teen believes is a grave. Michael tells Bethany that his mom vanished over a quarter of a century ago when he was younger than Willow is; now with his dad's death, he wants his mother's cold case revisited. Retired police officer Jones Cooper supplements his pension helping his neighbors while they work; for instance letting repairmen into homes so people do not have miss work. The cops ask their former colleague to investigate while psychic Eloise Montgomery warns him that making inquires into the missing Cooper case would end tragically for him.

    Darkness, My Old Friend, the sequel to Fragile, is a fabulous investigative psychological thriller. The myriad of characters bring to life small-town living where refreshingly everyone knows everyone has secrets, but not what they are. Clues are all over the exciting story line so the climax is anticipated, which adds to the fun as fans can solve the case. Though better to have read Fragile as there are references to the previous novel, readers will enjoy joining mother and daughter as they acclimate to their new dangerous home.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Great Mystery

    This book takes place called "The Hollows" where many interesting characters reside. It is the first book that I read by Lisa Unger and was very impressed with the writing style and the plot made for great reading. The only regret is that I did not read "Fragile" because I think if I had been introduced to the characters in that novel I would have enjoyed it even more and would have been a five star book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    I am a Lisa Unger fan, so of course I loved the book. Perfect e

    I am a Lisa Unger fan, so of course I loved the book. Perfect escape for me. I do think you can enjoy her books more if you read them in order. I couldn't find anything written that it is a sequel but the stories overlap, character show up again in other books.

    I read books fast, once Im on the the next I get titles mixed up with the stories and lose some of the details and names. I wish I would have realized in advance to jot down names and connection between people and some of the details of the Hollows. Because several stories take place there. my best guess on order is Fragile, Darkness my old friend and heatbroken.

    I think the only one I have left is sliver of truth. It looks like that may go with a set that I read a long time ago and may not remember much from.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014


    WhisperFlight sighed softly, Her mind flickering with thoughts. She hoped Jagged would show..She needed Him to know that She loved Him to death, even if ReedWhisker claimed to love, then leave Her. Her gaze flickered, and She thought of Her kits. EnderKit, AcornKit, and PoppyKit...Oh, how Her kits' had grown. She rested Her chin on Her paws, closing Her eyes. <p>

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2013

    Teenager Willow Graves has recently moved to small New England t

    Teenager Willow Graves has recently moved to small New England town The Hollows from New York City accompanied by her bestselling-novelist mother Bethany. Willow is unhappy in The Hollows and is seeing a psychologist due to her anger issues.

    One afternoon, in which Willow is feeling particularly vulnerable after a joke gone wrong in class, she cuts her next class and flees school. Taking a shortcut through the woods, Willow hears a thumping noise and against good judgment gets close, finding an enormous man digging a hole in the ground. Scared that she has witnessed someone burying a body, she runs, but loses her cell phone in the process, which is recovered by the digger.

    Bethany and Willow later receive a call from the stranger in the woods, wanting to return Willow’s phone. The man’s name is Michael Holt, and he tells Bethany, half joking, half serious, that he was actually disinterring a body, and he tells her a legend surrounding the iron mines below the Hollows Woods.

    Soon people in town get involved in a cold-case investigation involving the disappearance of Michael Holt’s mother when he was fourteen years old. Jones Cooper, a retired-cop-turned PI, Eloise Montgomery, a psychic with a tragic past, and the Holts’ neighbors get sucked in. But bringing back the past is anything but easy for devastating suppressed memories will emerge as well as town folks’ dark secrets, and lives will be in danger.

    I loved Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger. It is gritty, thrilling and very, very suspenseful and dark. The plot is very atmospheric; it sucks you in practically from the opening pages and doesn’t let you go until the end. I’ve come to realize, since this is the second book I’ve read by Unger, that in her stories bad weather is a central element of the plot; in Darkness, My Old Friend so is the paranormal.

    It seems as if the reader is part of the story; yes, Unger is that gifted. All characters are well developed, so much so that they feel like people one would have encountered at any point in one’s life, even if the story is that tragic that (fortunately) doesn’t happen often.

    I liked the character development of Willow. As teens Chelsea and Lulu in Heartbroken, Willow suffers complex transformations as result of what she goes through in the story. Lisa Unger writes about teens with understanding and sensibility. Two other great characters that practically jump from the pages are Eloise--for whom I felt compassion and empathy-- and Jones Cooper, a man who can’t see a lady in distress without jumping to her rescue, and in this novel that’s exactly what was needed.

    In summary, Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger is a top-notch thriller that will stay with you beyond the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Lisa Unger writes a very good story. The ending was a surprise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2012

    Good prose

    I am new to Lisa Unger's books and I will certainly read her other books. I like the characters and the plot line, although I haven't finished the book yet. But I can't put it down.

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  • Posted September 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Glad to see these characters again

    I've long been a fan of Lisa Unger. When I read and reviewed Fragile last year, I said it was my favourite of her books so far. I was thrilled to find out that her latest book - Darkness, My Old Friend - reprises the town and characters from Fragile.

    Jones Cooper, a former detective in the town of The Hollows, has retired and in now keeping himself busy by pet watching for vacationing homeowners, small home repairs and the like - a far cry from his former occupation.

    He is visited one day by Eloise - the psychic from Fragile. She has come to tell him she has seen a vision of Jones - diving in the river after someone and that it would be too much for him. Eloise works with local PI Ray Muldane as well. Muldane has been hired by Michael Holt. Michael was born in The Hollows and has recently moved back after the death of his father. His mother had disappeared when he was young. Bethany Graves and her daughter Willow have just moved to The Hollows to help Willow start fresh. One of Willow's first encounters in The Hollows? Michael - in the woods - digging...

    " She thought him the dutiful son, sitting at his father's deathbed. But he wasn't that. He was a grave robber, waiting for the night watchman to drift off once and for all. Then, and only then, could he dig his fingers into the earth and exhume the truth."

    At the end of Fragile, I thought there were more stories to be told with these characters and I was right. Jones Cooper is a great protagonist, conflicted with his past and what his role should be now. His wife Maggie, a psychologist in town, still has not won me over, but her clinical take on events and emotions provide a needed element. Eloise is explored more fully in this book, letting us know her back story. I appreciated this 'fleshing out' as she is the character I enjoy the most, besides Jones. There are many other players, all with their own stories.

    There is a secondary plot line that eventually intersected with the primary case Jones is working on. I was able to foresee what was coming and the outcome of the mystery fairly easily. But, the real strength of Unger's writing seems to be the exploration of relationships, problems and emotions of her characters. Unger skillfully weaves together all the threads she's created into one compelling read.

    "If you're looking, you can find trouble anywhere. It's waiting - not just on city street corners, in subways, in nightclubs, but on quiet country roads, in a peaceful stand of trees."

    Those looking for a hardcore murder mystery won't find it here. But if you enjoy a good story, this one's for you. Read an excerpt of Darkness, My Old Friend. You can find Lisa Unger on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011


    Was ok. I did seems to be a bit scattered in between story lines.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    highly recommend

    The characters were my friends I did not want my visit with them to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews

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