THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN
Charlie Donlea, one of the most original new voices in suspense, returns with a haunting novel, laden with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls—one who returns, one who doesn’t—and the forensics expert searching for answers.
Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.
A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.
But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.
This book took a while to warm up, and although some of it wasn’t deeply compelling, it was interesting enough to hold my attention. Then, finally, after the 20% mark when everything begins to boil—feces hitting the fan, bodies literally crawling out of the creepy woodwork—it ends.
And I shake my e-copy because surely there’s another page.
But *Swipe* *Swipe*… Nothing.
Fine, so there are supposed to be more books, I get it, and I assume this ending did what it set out to do. I’m a huge fan of being left wanting more, but there is such a thing as *too abrupt*—where even one more sentence would suffice. However, I do prefer this type of finish to anything overkill.
This story is delivered through a 3rd person narrative and the plot swings randomly in and out of past and present settings, offering up close and personal focus on multiple characters.
There are some holes, along with situations that I felt were added in haste and used as props to divert the reader’s attention. These areas sort of weakened the story and left me confused more than anything else.
The heart of this plot, however, is strong and deranged—examining characters who harbor a seriously sickening fetish. Their particular “obsession” was new to anything I’ve come across in fiction, and although it made me downright nauseous, it certainly offered an interesting glimpse into such a lifestyle.
Megan, in my opinion, was the most developed and interesting persona, and I really enjoyed her parts of the story.
Livia, the sister of another girl gone missing, turns this story into something unique as she performs her detailed and gruesome autopsies, knowing that at any moment the unzipping of a body bag could reveal her sister.
The forensics element is surprisingly technical and elaborate, and sometimes feels out of place in the story, but my eternal love for anything forensics made this work.
Although fairly disturbing, this storyline is quite original, and I do believe some tidying up would really enhance this book’s power. There is a lot happening here, and less would certainly have been more in this case.
~I’d recommend to action-packed, highly demented thriller fans unopposed to a bit of shakiness in a story’s structure
*Advanced copy kindly provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*