Christmas Presents

Release Date: 2023

Instead of presents this Christmas, a true crime podcaster is opening up a cold case…

Madeline Martin has built a life for herself as the young owner of a thriving business, The Next Chapter Bookshop, despite her tragic childhood and now needing to care for her infirm father. When Harley Granger, a failed novelist turned true crime podcaster, drifts into her shop in the days before Christmas, he seems intent on digging up events that Madeline would much rather forget. She’s the only surviving victim of Evan Handy, the man who was convicted of murdering her best friend Steph, and is suspected in the disappearance of two sisters, also good friends of Madeline’s, who have been missing for nearly a decade. It’s an investigation that has obsessed her father Sheriff James Martin right up until his stroke took his faculties.

Harley Granger has a gift for seeing things that others miss. He wasn’t much of a novelist, but his work as a true crime author and podcaster has earned him fame and wealth―and some serious criticism for his various unethical practices. Still, visiting Little Valley to be closer to his dying father has caused him to look into a case that many people think is closed―and some want reopened. And he has a lot of questions about the night Stephanie Cramer was killed, Ainsley and Sam Wallace disappeared, and Madeline Martin was left for dead, bleeding out on a riverbank.

Since Evan Handy went to jail, three other young women have gone missing, most recently a young college dropout named Lolly. Five young women missing in the same area in a decade. Are they connected? Was Evan Handy innocent after all? Or was there some else there that night? Someone who is still satisfying his dark appetites?

As Christmas approaches and a blizzard bears down, Madeline and her childhood friend Badger return to a past they both hoped was dead―to find the missing Lolly and to answer questions that have haunted them both, discovering that the truth is more terrible and much closer to home than they think.

Coupling a picturesque, cozy setting with a deeply unsettling suspenseful plot, Christmas Presents is a chilling seasonal novella that can be enjoyed all year long.


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Awards and Honors

  • Tampa Bay Times Best Book of 2023
  • Amazon Editors' Pick
  • BookBub Best Mysteries and Thrillers of Fall 2023
  • E!News 13 Books Perfect for a Spooky Season Read
  • CrimeReads Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of Fall 2023
  • SheReads Most Anticipated Thrillers, Mystery & Suspense of Fall 2023
  • Zibby Magazine Most Anticipated Reads This Fall
  • Hello! Magazine India Best Murder Mystery Novels 2023
  • Creative Loafing Best Florida Books 2023
  • Criminal Element Most Anticipated Reads: October 2023
  • The Real Book Spy Fall 2023 Must-Read Thrillers


"If you’re looking for a warm, heart-warming story of holiday cheer, this ain’t it. This book is a cold-blooded nasty thriller. I loved it!"
R.L. Stine

"Want the secret to surviving the holidays? Sneak away from the family to read this pulse-pounding novella by Lisa Unger. CHRISTMAS PRESENTS is the perfect mix of thrills and chills to delight any suspense reader."
Lisa Gardner

“Unger is a virtuoso of the psychological thriller, and that’s what Christmas Presents is… Cozy it’s not, but Christmas Presents might be just the thing to fill the stocking of the thriller fans on your list.”
Tampa Bay Times

“The latest psychological suspense by the author of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six emphasizes survivor’s guilt and the inability to move on in this compelling story.”
Library Journal

“Readers will race through the pages of CHRISTMAS PRESENTS, Lisa Unger’s new holiday novella, at near reindeer speed.”

“Though the setting resembles a Hallmark movie, this cold case is no cozy mystery, and Unger takes it to dark places fast. But at 224 pages, CHRISTMAS PRESENTS could be the perfect stocking stuffer for thriller fans.”
—Vanessa Cronin, Amazon Editor

“Christmas is coming early this year, and I can’t wait!!! And, in case you were wondering if anything could be better than a Lisa Unger mystery set at Christmas… it’s set in a bookshop!! I’m squealing like someone just handed me a puppy with a bow around its neck.”

"CHRISTMAS PRESENTS is Lisa Unger at her deadliest. This novella will disturb and frighten the sturdiest of thriller readers and features a great final act. It will be extremely difficult to resist finishing this story in one sitting, but be sure to read it before Santa Claus comes down your chimney and pays you a visit --- that is, if it’s really Santa."

"No more Christmas cheer. This holiday season, it's all about spooks because CHRISTMAS PRESENTS by Lisa Unger will have you on the edge of your seat during your entire break."
Sweety High

“CHRISTMAS PRESENTS is a fast-paced thriller you can sink your teeth into as it follows the tale of a true crime podcaster who opens a cold case instead of presents.”

"Surprising twists that will engage readers with fascinating characters, a descriptive setting, and a compelling suspenseful plot that takes place in a picturesque small upstate New York town in the five days preceding Christmas. I will warn you it is not a typical Christmas Story, although it is a story about the love of family and friends and coming to terms with the past."
Times Leader

“Lisa Unger’s CHRISTMAS PRESENTS is a fast-paced suspense… An entertaining snowy novella.”
Montecito Journal

“While the press materials would have you believe that Unger 'ruins Christmas' with this twisted little tale of ill-fated families, friendships, and false narratives, it’ll positively make the holidays for her many fans, who now have a tantalizing new trifle to devour. As a bonus: the few bookstore scenes will delight bibliophile”
Criminal Element

“Fans of Unger will know her thrillers match top-notch writing with gripping stories; this one won’t disappoint in that regard and offers the bonus of a satisfying family story”

“A twisty, fun, thoroughly snow-bound thriller.”
Powell's Books


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