THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea


Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


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.


I enjoyed reading Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE, last year, and I’m thrilled to say that his second book, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, exceeded my expectations. It’s suspenseful, twisty, and chilling, which all together make for a riveting read.

Two young women were abducted the summer after their high school graduation. Megan escapes after two weeks, but Nicole is still missing a year later. What became of Nicole? Her older sister Livia is haunted by that question daily. While completing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist, Livia wonders if a clue to her sister’s disappearance will end up on her exam table – and then suddenly, one appears.

I was fascinated by Livia’s job as a medical examiner, though I had to cringe several times! Yep, the autopsy descriptions could be gruesome, but clearly forensic pathology was well researched for this book.

The story jumps around in time, and is told from different POVs. What does Megan know about her time in captivity that her mind has repressed? There’s something dark and terrible in there that’s trying to get out. This was a puzzling and well constructed mystery that tripped me up more than once. The pace got faster as the story progressed, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the pieces were coming together toward the end. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect and haunting and fitting for this harrowing tale.

Second novels can be tricky, but Charlie Donlea knocked this one out of the park. Five big stars!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

BURNTOWN by Jennifer McMahon


Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


Ashford, Vermont, might look like your typical sleepy New England college town, but to the shadowy residents who live among the remains of its abandoned mills and factories, it’s known as “Burntown.”

Eva Sandeski, known as “Necco” on the street, has been a part of this underworld for years, ever since the night her father Miles drowned in a flood that left her and her mother Lily homeless. A respected professor, Miles was also an inventor of fantastic machines, including one so secret that the plans were said to have been stolen from Thomas Edison’s workshop. According to Lily, it’s this machine that got Miles murdered.

Necco has always written off this claim as the fevered imaginings of a woman consumed by grief. But when Lily dies under mysterious circumstances, and Necco’s boyfriend is murdered, she’s convinced her mother was telling the truth. Now, on the run from the man called “Snake Eyes,” Necco must rely on other Burntown outsiders to survive.

There are the “fire eaters,” mystical women living off the grid in a campsite on the river’s edge, practicing a kind of soothsaying inspired by powerful herbs called “the devil’s snuff”; there’s Theo, a high school senior who is scrambling to repay the money she owes a dangerous man; and then there’s Pru, the cafeteria lady with a secret life.

As the lives of these misfits intersect, and as the killer from the Sandeski family’s past draws ever closer, a story of edge-of-your-seat suspense begins to unfurl with classic Jennifer McMahon twists and surprises.


In the beginning a little boy witnesses a gruesome murder. He inherits stolen plans for an extraordinary machine, and years later he’s able to bring the invention to life, but there are dire consequences. (Coolest machine ever! I wanted more of it.) Now his teenage daughter, known as Necco in the strange place called Burntown, is on the run from a killer intent on wiping out her family. Luckily Necco falls in with an eclectic group of outsiders, and together they set out to solve the mystery of her family’s past.

I enjoy Jennifer McMahon’s books, and her latest, BURNTOWN, did not disappoint! The writing in this novel has a mysterious and lyrical quality (Alice Hoffman-ish?) which I loved. This book had many elements – suspense, mystery, the supernatural, and a coming of age story – that all came together for a unique and exciting read.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE WIDOW’S HOUSE by Carol Goodman


Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★


This chilling novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Lake of Dead Languages blends the gothic allure of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca and the crazed undertones of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper with the twisty, contemporary edge of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife—a harrowing tale of psychological suspense set in New York’s Hudson Valley.

When Jess and Clare Martin move from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to their former college town in the Hudson River valley, they are hoping for rejuvenation—of their marriage, their savings, and Jess’s writing career.

They take a caretaker’s job at Riven House, a crumbling estate and the home of their old college writing professor. While Clare once had dreams of being a writer, those plans fell by the wayside when Jess made a big, splashy literary debut in their twenties. It’s been years, now, since his first novel. The advance has long been spent. Clare’s hope is that the pastoral beauty and nostalgia of the Hudson Valley will offer some inspiration.

But their new life isn’t all quaint town libraries and fragrant apple orchards. There is a haunting pall that hangs over Riven House like a funeral veil. Something is just not right. Soon, Clare begins to hear babies crying at night, see strange figures in fog at the edge of their property. Diving into the history of the area, she realizes that Riven House has a dark and anguished past. And whatever this thing is—this menacing force that destroys the inhabitants of the estate—it seems to be after Clare next…


I enjoyed this Modern Gothic from Carol Goodman. It’s creepy and twisty, and it keeps you guessing as to what’s really going on.

The main characters are Jess and Clare Martin, who met in an “invitation only” writing class in college. Jess had one novel published in his early twenties, but that was years ago, and now they’re broke. The couple ends up back in their small college town as caretakers of their old writing professor’s crumbling estate. It seems like the perfect place to rekindle Jess’ writing career – possibly Clare’s too – but the house has a dark history, and its ghosts don’t want to keep quiet.

I liked the eerie atmosphere and uneasy feeling the story conveyed, and the mystery of the house’s tragic past was intriguing. Loved how it all wrapped up in the end! I was quite surprised at the outcome. I’m glad I spotted this one at the library and will definitely add Carol Goodman’s other books to my wishlist.