Thrilled to be married for the past five years to the Prague-born Marcus Raine, a successful softwear designer, Isabel, a published fiction writer, finds herself in the middle of a nightmare when Marcus leaves their New York City home one day never to return.
After a night of anxiety, a phone call stuns Isabel into action. The call is from Marcís cell phone, and it ends with a piercing scream: ďThe screaming just went onÖ until the line went suddenly dead.Ē Involved with her own career, her writing life, Isabel realizes she knows little of her husbandís business activities. Setting out to find Marcus, Isabel is flummoxed by her lack of information, the small details that define a healthy marriage.
Thus begins Isabelís desperate search, a series of violent confrontations that leave her in the hospital with a concussion, her home trashed, dead bodies littering Marcís office. Wrapped in righteous anger, Isabel sets out to find answers, less than honest with a detective assigned to the case. Grady Crowe is nursing domestic problems of his own and a growing suspicion that Isabel knows more than she is telling.
Maybe Isabel is the kind of stubborn woman you would want in your corner in such a predicament, but her arrogant abrasiveness does not make for a likeable protagonist. Luckily, Isabelís actions are tempered by her older sister, Linda, an artist/photographer with a happy marriage and two children.
Isabel and Linda are the predominant narrative voices in this thriller, a shared childhood trauma explaining much of their adult reactions to stress. Sensible or not, Isabel leads the charge, from New York to Prague, relentless in her pursuit of a man she now realizes is a total stranger, Linda providing a corollary drama as she reveals the cracks in her marriage.
Shadowy figures and random violence follow Isabel, who uses her writerís persona to justify her impetuous, often dangerous decisions, glamorizing the truly stupid chances she takes. The flaw in this tale may be Isabelís penchant for over-examination, a self-indulgent and juvenile rationalization of her actions that leaches passion from the plot.
The storyline dominates character development, simply too much information to allow for nuance. In creating a writer as her main character, Unger sometimes blurs the line between herself and Isabel, especially obvious in the mental gyrations Isabel performs to justify her actions in the face of Marcís killer instincts.
It is hard to tell author from character. In my opinion, this artistic self-indulgence, a suspicion that Unger isnít able reign in Isabelís psyche, inhibits Die for You in a way that hasnít limited Ungerís other novels. But make no mistake: Unger is a storyteller with a great sense of timing, propelling her flawed protagonist from one drama to another, battered, bruised and hopefully wiser from her ordeal by fire.