Oline Cogdill

Most authors who write series concentrate on one or two recurring characters to drive the story. Kinsey Millhone, Harry Bosch, V.I. Warshawski, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Sookie Stackhouse—each is as well known to readers as are the authors who created them.

(Five points each if you can name in one quick breath the corresponding authors; no, there is no prize, just a fun exercise.)

Lisa Unger has taken a different route with three of her last novels. Instead of focusing on a person, Unger uses the fictional town The Hollows as the driving force while concentrating on different residents each time out.

The only recurring characters in Unger’s series have been Jones Cooper, a detective, and his psychologist wife, Maggie, both of whom were the focus of Fragile, her first Hollows novel. But these characters are now minor in the series, vital, yes, but only supporting.

Unger’s newest novel In the Blood, which just came out this week, belongs to Lana Granger, a troubled young college student who is trying to hide a past that includes her father being on death row for the murder of her mother and her own violent tendencies.

The Hollows is a charming sounding town, located about 100 miles from New York City, giving it both an urban and a rural feel. Each time Unger visits The Hollows, we learn more about this place and how it affects its residents. Who knew there was a college in The Hollows, as we find out with In the Blood?

I have been trying to think of other authors who have used a town as the recurring series character and the only one I can remember is the late Marilyn Wallace, who wrote a series during the late 1980s and 1990s set in Taconic Hills (“a tiny hamlet halfway between the Hudson River and New England”).

And Tana French uses a police squad, which is in its own way like a town, in her Irish mysteries.

Perhaps more knowledgeable readers than I will remember a series in which the town was the recurring characters.