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.

SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea

Summit Lake
SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Excellent debut from Charlie Donlea! I can’t believe this book slipped past my “new releases” radar until now. I flew through this story, was totally absorbed in it, loved it.

Kelsey Castle is a crime reporter who’s sent on assignment to a North Carolina mountain town called Summit Lake. This usually idyllic place has had its first murder. The victim, Becca Eckersley, is a promising law student and daughter of a powerful attorney. Kelsey believes the police are going in the wrong direction, possibly trying to cover up what really happened, and she’s determined to find the truth.

The story alternates between Becca’s POV in the months leading up to her murder, and Kelsey’s POV a couple of weeks after the crime. The plot was suspenseful and well-constructed. I enjoyed trying to piece together the puzzle, and the twist at the end was awesome. My only complaint was that I thought Kelsey came by the official evidence (police/medical reports) too easily.

I’d highly recommend SUMMIT LAKE to fans of mystery and crime novels. Dark and haunting.