Back in the day… and before the series took a turn for the worse (or jumped the shark as they say in TV-land) I was a fan of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. I loved the coroner / sleuth combo. It was new at the time, though of course became increasing popular in books and on TV after Dr Scarpetta blazed that trail, leading to the likes of Silent Witness and iZombie. 😉
Although The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea isn’t really about the work of a coroner as such, it’s centred around one and I very much enjoyed the detail / research and expertise Donlea inserted into his plot and characters.The Girl Who Was Taken
by Charlie Donlea
Published by Bantam
on April 3rd 2017
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
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.
Like so many of the books I read (almost all, perhaps?) this book jumps about in time.
The very likeable Livia is doing the hard yards as an intern in forensic pathology, awaiting the inevitable arrival of her sister when a potential suicide ends up on her table. Someone who a friend of Nicole’s says was – in fact – Nicole’s boyfriend around the time she disappeared.
Also in the present Megan’s released her ‘tell-all’ book, predominantly to offer her parents the closure they so desperately need. It was mostly written by her therapist and Megan continues to struggle with random memories and cannot envision the bright future she once had.
In the past we meet both Megan and Nicole in the days before they were taken. Megan’s the town sheriff’s daughter and all-round good girl; whereas Livia discovers Nicole’s behaviour had taken a turn for the worse and she wonders how well she knew her much-younger sibling.
Donlea seamlessly jumps between timeframes, offering up the context we need to understand our characters as the plot unfolds.
Livia feels nothing but disdain for Megan who’s received great accolades as a result of her ordeal, but is forced to call upon her once she finds cases similar to that of Megan and her sister and the pair form an unlikely partnership.
There’s a bit bubbling beneath the surface in this novel and it highlights some interesting fetishes and sinister motives. I’d planned to start reading this book and finish it the following night but had to change my plans and finish it in a sitting.
It wasn’t predictable, but there’s a limited suspect pool so we know someone we’ve met is gonna turn out to be far more unpleasant than they are at first glance, but we’re kept guessing for quite some time.
The only slightly weird thing about this book is that the girls are kidnapped in late 2016 and it’s a year later when we meet Megan and Livia – late 2017. It felt a little presumptuous reading about events taking place in September / October 2017 (given that April is only just now upon us)…. but of course I’m conscious that readers could come upon this book at any time in the future.
* As an aside, I’d not come across Donlea before and assumed he was a she. I later wondered why I was so surprised and guess it’s because he nails the female lead characters so well. (And now I’m gonna have to ponder how many male writers create fabulous female characters. Argh.) #overthinker
The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea was published in Australia by Penguin Random House and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.