By Ekta R. Garg
January 26, 2018
Release date: January 9, 2018
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
Two sisters get kidnapped in a small town, and their aunt hires a bounty hunter to find them. The bounty hunter arrives ready to do her job but will need to battle local law enforcement as well as the ghosts from her own past if she wants to bring the children home. Author Louisa Luna combines a smart, compelling plot with evocative writing in her newest book Two Girls Down.
Jamie Brandt leaves her daughters, Kylie and Bailey, in the car at the strip mall parking lot but convinces herself they’ll be okay, because she’ll be gone five minutes, ten minutes tops. She’s just ready to get to the birthday party where they’re headed so the kids can be someone else’s problem for a while. Jamie loves her kids, but single parenting is sucking all the life out of her.
Then she gets back to the car and discovers the girls are missing. What’s left of Jamie’s fragile world begins to fall apart. Her aunt steps in with an answer, which Jamie immediately clings to like a life raft in the middle of the ocean.
Jamie’s aunt finds Alice Vega, a bounty hunter from California with a solid track record. By Alice’s own admission, she’s taken on the responsibility of finding 18 kidnapped children so far—and found all of them. Not all the stories have happy endings but if anyone can find Kylie and Bailey, it’s Alice.
Alice Vega arrives in Denville, Pennsylvania, expecting all the pushback she gets. Local police officers don’t trust anyone outside their jurisdiction, least of all a woman from clear across the country. Some people take one look at her diminutive frame and assume she can’t be much of a force; she’s quick to prove them wrong. She approaches former police officer Max “Cap” Caplan to help her, and he declines with as much professional courtesy as he can muster without rolling his eyes directly in her face.
Cap, however, reconsiders his decision after a heart to heart with someone close to him. He warns Alice of all the skepticism she’s already encountered. She just shrugs and reaffirms her commitment to bring Kylie and Bailey home, no matter what. Together they retrace steps and use resources outside of law enforcement to fight their way to the one goal they have in mind. They know they’re racing against a clock. The longer Bailey and Kylie are missing, the less likely the story ends happily.
Author Louisa Luna accomplishes the rare feat of presenting a compelling thriller novel while at the same time taking great care with the language. Most thrillers offer bare-bone sentences with all the concentration going toward pacing and plot. Luna clearly enjoys narrative that will make readers pause as much for its clever word use as anything else.
In Alice Vega, Luna creates a protagonist who could be classified as a stock character only in the strictest sense. Alice’s challenges from before her career as a bounty hunter may not necessarily surprise anyone, but that doesn’t make those challenges any less real. Luna’s careful use of language will make readers want to offer Alice quiet sympathy. It’s not in Alice’s nature to get all cuddly with anyone, and readers will respect that.
Alice’s thoughts and ideas are crystal clear; it’s Cap who is the more conflicted of the two, but that’s exactly what makes him so interesting. They complement one another in temperament and skill set. The duo work so well together that readers, in fact, may wonder at the end whether another book with Alice and Cap is forthcoming.
The plot itself with keep readers engaged, venturing into places thrillers don’t always like to go. One of the weaker points of the story comes in the number of suspects Luna presents as possible kidnappers. There are just too many to keep track of, which detracts from the overall impact. The climax feels just a touch contrived, and a red herring could possibly frustrate readers a little bit. It won’t prevent them, however, from caring about the girls but ultimately about whether Alice accomplishes her goal.
Weaker points aside, anyone who enjoys a solid thriller will definitely want to read this book. I recommend readers Bookmark Two Girls Down.