Lisa Unger continues to mine the depths of psychological suspense to extend her impressive oeuvre with a holiday-themed novella, Christmas Presents.

Bookstore owner Madeline Martin anticipated that the biggest stresses of the holiday season would be staffing her popular store and dealing with her aging father’s recovery from a stroke, but when she looks up to find Harley Granger—celebrated true crime author and podcaster—standing at her counter, she knows things are about to get a whole lot more stressful.

Harley is in town considering covering the story of Evan Handy, a convicted serial killer in jail for killing one of Madeline’s best friends. The fact that Evan also attempted to kill Madeline is now part of the local lore, but Harley isn’t so sure all the facts are known. There have long been rumors that Evan might have had an accomplice and with other local women going missing, everyone wants answers.

Meanwhile, Lisa Unger crafts her story to unfold with a current abduction happening interspersed with the Madeline/Harley drama. The narrative here is meticulously constructed, so that flashbacks to the time of the original crime feel organic and never interrupt the flow of action in the present day. Fans of psychological suspense will see many hallmarks of the sub-genre on display, but Lisa Unger provides enough variation to keep things feeling fresh.

As always, Lisa Unger really understands how the minds of trauma victims work, so readers are given a deep dive into the guilt and fear such occurrences elicit—both in the immediate aftermath and over the course of time. The Christmas presents of the title are also a nice touch that help to remind readers that this is a holiday mystery without the need to sugarcoat this dark tale.

Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger is not for those who are looking for a light holiday read, but for readers who want to escape into a consuming narrative that is both compelling and thrilling, it is a great choice this holiday season.

BUY LINKS: Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger