By: Charlie Donlea
Publication Date: 4/25/2017
My Rating: 4 Stars
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.
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Charlie Donlea returns following his debut, Summit Lake with THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN – a disturbing, and evil sadistic game of kidnapping and abduction goes bad. The Capture Club. More than one monster? An abandoned haunted subdivision Stellar Heights. A psychopath. Lies and secrets. A sister who will not give up.
Set in a small southeastern town of North Carolina (not in an area worthy of scenery or landmarks), we meet a rebellious teen. A selfish, self-centered girl who is out of control. However, she has cried wolf too many times. Now she really needs help and it may be too late for saving.
Flashing back and forth, we learn of two girls who go missing. Megan McDonald and Nichole Cutty. Megan was taken, the daughter of Emerson Bay’s Sherriff in the summer of 2016. Nichole was taken about the same time. Megan goes free. Nichole is still missing.
One year later, Megan is out with a book, called Missing. A so-called true story account of her abduction and courageous escape. Did the killer let her go, or did she escape? Does she remember the events or has she repressed the horrific events?
However, turns out Megan is not forthcoming about the real truths of her abduction. It was a front to keep people at bay. She had been on her way to Duke University. Everyone wanted to know the morbid details of her captivity. She needed to be a success story. Her abductor had let her go.
Nichole was still missing. What happened to Nichole and what is Megan hiding?
“A life might end, but sometimes their case lives forever.” - Gerald Colt, MC
Donlea spends most of the book featuring Livia Cutty, the sister of Nichole. She chose forensics as a career because someday her parents would get the call that her sister’s body had been found. There would be questions about what happened to her and what they did to her. She needed to be the person to gather those answers. She chose to take a position in Raleigh, NC, close to where she grew up in Emerson Bay. Livia, a pathologist was happy to be a part of a well-funded program run by Dr. Gerland Colt, widely considered in the world of forensics as a pioneer.
She had to do something for her sister. She was not there when Nichole placed the call that night. It was always drama with Nichole. Livia could only imagine finding redemption in some form and be able to help her sister in the future.
A body comes in which is thought to be a suicide. Turns out the guy, Casey had dated her sister Nichole. However, was it suicide or murder? Her sister was wild, and out of control before she was taken. What had she gotten herself into with someone like this?
Livia thought something was off about Megan’s book and her account of her abduction. However, the book was the closest thing she had gotten about the real details of the night Megan and Nichole were taken.
However, were they actually taken at the same time? What really happened and how are these two connected? What about other girls that were taken. Are they connected? A similar drug was used. We learn about the events leading up to the abduction. (did not find this very interesting).
Livia was ten years older than Nichole. Still, Livia knew most of Nichole’s friends from that time. Jessica Tanner had been one of her sister’s closest friends. She receives a call about Casey. The guy they had pulled out of the bay. He was the guy Nichole was dating that summer before she disappeared.
From here the bulk of the book goes on and on about the sick immature games Nichole played and the Capture Club (pretty far out). Nichole was self-centered, narcissistic, jealous, and manipulated everyone, seeking attention from everyone, mostly guys. Rebellion. She was part of this cult-club, who enjoyed playing games obsessed with abductions. (So tired of hearing about this girl, was hoping she would never be found).
A dangerous dark game. Nichole was jealous of Megan. Games she played. However, her plan backfires. A cast of characters from boyfriends promiscuous behavior, drugs, sex, and more abductions. Casey was creepy as well as many others. A bag over the head. Where are these bodies going?
We hear about all gory details of the bodies coming into the examiner’s office and not so realistic attempts by Livia to investigate the whereabouts of her sister and other missing elements. She finally teams up with Megan leading them to the real horror of the night both girls were taken.
My take: This was a difficult review to write as for why I have delayed posting. I hate to be negative; however, being honest here with a much lower rating than the first book. I really enjoyed Summit Lake, Donlea’s debut; however, was not fully engaged on any level with The Girl Who Was Taken.
Not many likable characters here and the best part of the book starts about 80%. Fast action and suspense. Then after all the buildup for an entire book, the identity of the killer is revealed, and like nothing happens. It ends. This would have been an opportunity for an entire book here. Very similar to another book I just finished (another 3 star).
Livia and Megan learn the identity and (it was like, now OK, and let’s move on- what’s for dinner)? From both sides. No why or explanation? No flushing out. No emotion. I am not a fan of cutting off a book this abruptly. Would like to have more focus and time spent on the latter part and less on the teenage disturbing events. Will not go into more details, with spoilers. I would have liked to hear more from Megan, her childhood and parents. Would have been an intriguing story here.
However, Donlea does a good job with the forensics, even though most folks in her situation would not be allowed all the liberties, but again this is fiction. The author offers suspense and action with a number of red herrings.
Sure the book will attract a variety of readers on a more positive note since it was outside- the-box. Would like to have a much more interesting city in NC for the setting, which was not expanded upon here. Really enjoy this author, so hoping for something different next go around.
I think my overall reading interests are changing to less dark thrillers, and enjoying more: domestic suspense, literary and historical fiction. Finding the more I read my book interests (genre) change.
A special thank you to Kensington and NetGalley for an early reading copy.
April Top 20
Praise for Charlie Donlea & Summit Lake
Top Books of 2016
“A gem of a mystery, fast‑paced and suspenseful.” —Catherine Coulter, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Fans of contemporary suspense will enjoy this brisk read.” —Booklist
“An exciting debut, with all the right touches, captivating from the first page to the last. There’s a bright future ahead for this newcomer to the thriller genre—definitely a talent to watch.” —Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
“Donlea keeps readers guessing throughout. The whodunit plot is clever and compelling . . . for fans of nonstop mysteries with a twist.” —Library Journal
“A swift, outstanding debut. Summit Lake engrossed me then knocked me cold. Charlie Donlea is a superb storyteller sure to damage the bestseller lists.” —Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author
“With a soaring pace and teasing plot twists, Charlie Donlea’s debut mystery is like a cool drink of water with a twist of lemon. It’s refreshing to find a book that has such a well-developed plot and excellent writing to back it up.” —BookPage
About the Author
Photo Credit: Carrianne Photography
Charlie Donlea lives in Chicago with his wife and two young children. He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane. These majestic trips to “God’s Country” inspired the setting for Summit Lake.
With so many choices of entertainment, and countless other books to choose from, he thanks you for spending your time and treasure on his creation. Read More