Book Title: The Girl Who Was Taken
Author: Charlie Donlea
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Suspense, Crime Fiction, Mystery
Date Read: 04/10/17
Pub Date: 04/25/17
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.
Some fellow reviewers and I first stumbled across Charlie Donlea at the beginning of 2016; we all scrambled for a NetGalley copy of his debut novel Summit Lake after reading several rave reviews on Goodreads. When you’ve been writing reviews for awhile, you start to come across a good number of first time authors and their writing can be a bit rough; not so here. We all raved and cheered on Summit Lake and kept his name logged in our thoughts in hopes of a new book being published in 2017, and here it is. While I was very impressed with his first book, this was fantastic! The amount of growth the author has shown between Summit Lake and The Girl Who Was Taken is outstanding, which is what you want as a writer AND a reader. While the pacing and flow had a similar feel to Summit Lake, this new book was so remarkably different I felt like I was picking up something completely new and fresh, as opposed to another carbon copy story with names and settings changed.
“A life might end, but sometimes their case lives forever.”
-Gerald Colt, MD
I have a lot to say about this one, but I’ll try to hold back from any dead giveaways or spoilers. *Insert typical Chelsea observation of stunningly gorgeous cover in her favorite hues of blue* I love how this story was broken up; we have a jumping timeline between past and present, but it wasn’t difficult to follow at any point. Our main plot line is present day, which is after the abduction of Nicole and Megan/Megan’s escape told mostly through Nicole’s older sister Livia’s life; the past is slowly filling us in on the events leading up to the abduction, mainly through what Nicole experienced. This is a shorter read, as there are lots of brief chapters and “parts” to break up the process and keep you on your toes. For the first half of the book it’s more of a slow burner; this is where I felt that procedural style of writing was portrayed, although it isn’t from the police’s POV, but a medical examiner’s. This brought a completely unique set of eyes to the table, as I’ve never read a book from that view before, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always felt, while reading crime fiction and police procedurals, that I would enjoy seeing more of what is entailed in the examiner’s job past just the brief glimpse of an autopsy that is usually included. This gave us that view and so much more. The flashbacks, being told from Nicole’s POV gave us more of a YA approach, but not in a ditzy, clumsy way. I can’t explain how, but this book gave me a feeling that defied genre barriers; it had all the elements of a suspenseful mystery, but with its bold casting of a different kind of procedure and a widely varied cast, it felt different than anything I’ve picked up yet.
“I know who took me.”
Once I hit that point, my pulse was racing and I had to know if my detective work had paid off in a solid solving of the case. NEWS FLASH-it hadn’t. There are plenty of bread crumbs left to point you in the direction of red herrings; I think I underestimated this one because there are a few “easy solves” laid out in front of you to keep you thinking you know how this story will go. I took the bait and fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I did notice upon finishing the book, however, that there were plenty of clues that were visably laid out that I chose to ignore. If you pay close enough attention, you may pick up on them and solve this one. If not, enjoy the exciting twist and buckle up baby. I also really appreciated that not everything was tied up so neatly in the end; things were left a little raw which gave a better sense of realism in how a similar situation might be played out. Overall, this was a fabulous mystery; it isn’t one to be rushed through, but savored, as it has some really rich elements that layer upon each other to create a multi-dimensional story.
I would highly recommend this to fans of Summit Lake, but also to mystery and suspense fans in general who like a good whodunnit. Again, this was not a thriller with break neck pacing to be devoured, but a steady, intriguing mystery with many clues placed along the way if the reader pays close enough attention. I was so incredibly pleased with this novel and I can’t wait to find out where the author chooses to take us next! *Maybe we’ll get lucky with another blue cover?*
*Many thanks to the author and publisher for sending me an early copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here on the blog!