The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
Mystery | Thriller | Suspense
When it comes to mysteries and thrillers, I have a pretty good track record at figuring things out before the final reveal. It’s not often that an author manages to catch me completely off-guard, and yet, have the culprit still make perfect sense — but Charlie Donlea managed to do that here. Better yet, he set the bait for a specific suspect and I absolutely fell for it. And for that, I give a huge round of applause.
This chilling mystery is centered around the disappearance of two girls — Nicole Cutty, and Megan McDonald — both of whom disappear the same night. One girl escapes. One girl’s still missing. Flash forward a year later, and the story focuses on Livia, a forensic pathologist and Nicole’s older sister. When Livia autopsies a body that is connected to her younger sister’s past, she finds herself following a trail of clues, on a hunt for the truth about her missing sister.
The Girl Who Was Taken is a well-written, multi-layered story that provides plenty of twists, red herrings, and reveals. Flashing forward and backward in time, it’s told from a few different perspectives to maximize suspense and intrigue but was still easy to follow along with.
The plot itself is quite dark and disturbing but feels unique to other books with serial kidnapping storylines. I also appreciated the character of Livia and her work as a forensic pathologist. I think this is an underused protagonist career for mysteries — perhaps due to the amount of research an author has to do to describe their work. While I have no idea how accurate the autopsies in this book were, they were not for the squeamish and they certainly felt authentic and well-researched!
I didn’t love the scenes featuring the teenage drama. It felt overdone and slowed the first half of the story down. However, it did demonstrate the downward spiral of a specific character, their immaturity, and why they ended up in the situation they did — so I can see why it was necessary to the plot.
And while I’ve read some reviews stating that the ending of the book was too abrupt/unfinished, I actually really enjoyed the way it was concluded. I thought the final sentence was ambiguous but in a very intriguing, intentional way — and I loved that.
The Girl Who Was Taken is a layered, suspenseful thriller that kept me riveted. It’s creepy and dark, featuring unlikable characters and twisted (in all senses of the word) plot points, but it’s also a very original story. With plenty of suspects and false clues, this mystery is sure to keep readers guessing until the very end.
Fans of darker/graphic thrillers
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Kensington Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher) Two abducted girls—one who returns, one who doesn’t. The night they go missing, high school seniors Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are at a beach party in their small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. Police launch a massive search, but hope is almost lost–until Megan escapes from a bunker deep in the woods…A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has made Megan a celebrity. It’s a triumphant story, except for one inconvenient 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 her sister’s fate determined. Instead, the first clue comes from another body–that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan to learn more about that fateful night. Other girls have disappeared, and she’s increasingly sure the cases are connected.
Megan knows more than she revealed in her book. Flashes of memory are pointing to something more monstrous than she described. 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…