Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger is a very highly recommended psychological suspense thriller that is definitely not a Christmas story.
In 2014 Madeline (Maddy) Martin was the only survivor of a terrifying crime among friends and is trying to recover and move on. She is currently the owner of a successful bookstore, The Next Chapter Bookshop, and trying to balance working with making sure her father is cared for after his stroke. Now a true crime podcaster/writer, Harley Grange, is in town and looking into what happened years ago with Evan Handy. Handy was convicted for killing her friend, Steph, and is suspected in the disappearance of two sisters, also friends of Maddy, whose bodies were never found.
The problem is that since Handy went to prison, three other young women have gone missing. The most recent missing woman is Lolly and from the opening chapter readers know her from her job dancing at a club. Now Christmas is approaching, a blizzard is coming, and Lolly is still missing. She was looking forward to going home for Christmas. Grange is trying to look into the missing girls, but he needs help from those who were there when it started in 2014.
Billed as a novella, Christmas Presents weighs in at 224 pages so it's on the short side, but it is a complete, compelling story that readers will love. Unger expertly sets the atmosphere and introduces the characters. Maddy is a sympathetic character, She's trying to recover from what happened years ago, but it's a well known fact in the small town she's in. She's trying to help her father recover and make a living. Granger is who he is. He's not pretending or putting on a false front. He wants to dig and uncover anything that has been overlooked. Lolly is the only character experiencing terrifying circumstances, but her voice appears infrequently.
Admittedly, I guessed what was going on before the ending, but this
is the pleasure in reading thrillers. Authors leave clues and readers
follow them. Keeping in mind the page count, there wasn't a lot of extra
time to distract readers and set up false leads.I knew what I was
getting into at the start, but also knew Unger would write an
exceptional story no matter the length. I was right.