Saturday, December 30, 2017

Two Girls Down

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna
Doubleday: 1/9/18
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385542494

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller.

Jamie Brandt, a single mother, is running late while on her way to a birthday party where the whole family is invited. When she stops at Kmart to buy a gift, she leaves 10-year-old Kylie and 8-year-old Bailey in the car while she runs into the store. When she returns, the sisters are gone. After 48 hours with no lead, Jamie's Aunt Maggie Shambley, hires California bounty hunter Alice Vega to locate the girls. Vega is a no nonsense enigmatic investigator who has a well-publicized national reputation for finding abducted children.

The Denville, Pennsylvania police chief, in a pique of misplaced pride, immediately refuses to work with Vega to find the girls, despite the fact that after budget cuts, the department can barely keep up with the local oxycodone and meth epidemic. With help from "the Bastard," a computer hacker who assists her, Vega has access to resources and information the police don't. She also hires a local disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is currently working as a PI. Vega knows that he has inside contacts and a favor he could call in with the local police. Vega and Cap work together to uncover a complicated web of lies, false leads, and inconsistent statements to try and find the girls before it is too late.

I liked Vega and Cap, who are both flawed but well-developed characters. They work very well together. Cap's problems (and strengths) are presented upfront, but Vega's are hidden and very slowly revealed in small increments. Both of them are fully aware of the ticking clock and how every hour, every minute, the girls are not found is one minute closer to what may be their death. They are both keen observers of people and can pick out clues that the police are overlooking.

Luna uses a third-person narrative that allows us access to the main protagonists' thoughts and feelings. Their thoughts and motivations are so different and contrast starkly with each other. She also does a great job describing all of the supporting characters; they are all written as real people.

This is an excellent nail-biting complex thriller that moves at a steady pace, building up the tension incrementally with each new suspect and lead. The writing is exceptional; the plot is complex and carefully reveals each new piece of evidence. I was totally immersed in the drama. The final conclusion was a shocker and took me by surprise.

Well, Done, Louisa Luna! I am hoping that this signals the start of a series featuring Vega and Cap.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Doubleday via Netgalley.

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