Title: The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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.
The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea is a fast-paced and engrossing mystery about two young women who were kidnapped the same night. Megan McDonald managed to escape from her captor two weeks after she went missing. A year later, Nicole Cutty is still missing and the discovery of her secret boyfriend Casey Delevan’s corpse raises many intriguing questions for her sister, Dr. Livia Cutty, the forensic pathologist who performed his autopsy.
Megan has made a lot of progress recovering from her harrowing ordeal but she is still struggling to reclaim her fragmented memories of the time she spent in captivity. She has been unable to move forward with her plans to go to college and hoping to calm her mother’s concern, she reluctantly agreed to write the tell all book about her experience. With Nicole still missing, Megan continues therapy to try to remember what happened during the two weeks she was imprisoned by the kidnapper and while she is making progress, it is an slow process retrieving those lost details.
Livia is determined to understand the connection between Nicole and Casey but her investigation is strictly off the books. She uncovers some very disturbing cases that might be linked to Megan and Nicole’s disappearances but since they occurred out of state, she is not completely certain they are connected. Livia does reach out to Megan in hopes of learning new information about the night the girls were abducted and while Megan is eager to assist, will she be able provide new details that will help Livia discover what happened to Nicole?
The storyline weaves back and forth in time and provides readers with insight into Nicole’s activities in the weeks before the abduction. As Livia soon discovers, Nicole’s behavior had dramatically transformed in the weeks leading up to her disappearance, but trying to find the reason for this change is elusive. Equally puzzling is her relationship with the much older Casey but Livia cannot seem to discover how the two met or what drew them to one another. The answers to these questions are quite shocking as is their horrifying obsession and how Casey and Nicole satisfy their unhealthy curiosity.
The Girl Who Was Taken is a spellbinding mystery with an unusual storyline and strong female characters. Charlie Donlea employs several red herrings, clever misdirects and offers a viable pool of suspects in an effort to keep the perpetrator’s identity hidden. Despite these rather ingenious attempts to conceal the kidnapper’s identity, astute readers will most likely figure out who is behind the crimes well before the novel’s conclusion. Despite accurately solving the mystery about halfway through the novel, Livia’s investigation and Megan’s continued efforts to retrieve her memories surrounding her traumatic kidnapping are quite interesting and easily kept me engaged in the unfolding story. All in all, a very intriguing mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss!