A riveting thriller about the search for two missing girls in a small Pennsylvania town.
When two young sisters, Kylie and Bailey Brandt, disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated family hires an enigmatic bounty hunter from California, Alice Vega, to do what the authorities cannot. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemics, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan, to cut through the local politics.
With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a complex web of lies, false leads, and dangerous relationships to locate both girls before time runs out and the girls are gone forever.
About the Author
Louisa Luna is the author of the young adult novels Brave New Girl and Crooked. She lives in Brooklyn.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2018 Louisa Luna
Jamie Brandt was not a bad mother. Later she would tell that to anyone who would listen: police, reporters, lawyers, her parents, her boyfriend, her dealer, the new bartender with the knuckle tattoos at Schultz’s, the investigator from California and her partner, and her own reflection in the bathroom mirror, right before cracking her forehead on the sink’s edge and passing out from the cocktail of pain, grief, and fear.
She was not a bad mother, even though she’d yelled at them that morning. It was Saturday, finally, and Jamie was embarrassed to say sometimes she liked the weekdays more, the predictable rhythm of her aunt Maggie’s real estate office where she was the receptionist, the chance to drink coffee and read Us magazine online, thinking of the girls in school, which they actually liked for the most part. Kylie, the ten-year-old, might piss and moan over homework, but she loved the day-to-day operations of school—the hurricane of note passing and gossip. She was already popular, had already stolen makeup from Jamie’s top dresser drawer and sent texts to boys from Jamie’s phone. Bailey, eight, was just as sassy but loved school for the school part, reading and writing—especially vocabulary, the way words sounded and the rules that went with them.
The weekends were hectic, a blur of soccer games and ballet practice, playdates and every last minute crammed with errands: groceries, cooking, pharmacy (Kylie’s allergies, Bailey’s asthma), cleaning the apartment, dusting and Swiffering every surface to avoid allergies and asthma. And then meltdowns and screaming protests about the rules: one hour on the computer for non-school-related activities, half an hour of video games, one hour of TV, all of which would be broken by Sunday night. Jamie would have to beg them to go to the housing complex playground, which the girls claimed was old, dirty, with two out of five swings broken and a sandbox that smelled like pee.
All Jamie wanted was to get to Saturday night. Then Darrell would come over and maybe the girls would go somewhere for a sleepover, or to Nana and Papa’s. Maybe Jamie would let them play video games for a bonus hour in their room and take pictures with her phone just so she and Darrell could drink some beers and watch a movie that didn’t feature a chipmunk or a princess. And if the girls weren’t there, maybe they’d smoke a joint; maybe his hand would slide up her shirt and they’d end up naked on the couch, Jamie looking at him on top, thinking he is not perfect, he has funny teeth and always wears that leather jacket with the hole in the pit, but there are a few good qualities here. One large good quality: she would think and then she’d laugh, and Darrell would say, “What?” but then he’d laugh too.
But first, errands and then a birthday party for all of them. It was for a girl in Kylie’s class, but it was one of those parties to which everyone was invited—siblings and parents for pizza, games, and cake in the family’s big ranch-style house in a new development called The Knolls. Jamie didn’t like the trend, these big free-for-all events, was worried because Kylie’s birthday was in June and maybe she’d want the same thing. Jamie saw the problems coming at her like headlights: their apartment was too small for a party, her mother would never let her hear the end of it if she asked to have it at her parents’ place, and the money, all that money, for that many pizzas plus gifts plus a new dress for Kylie and the new dress Bailey would have to have too.
“Why do you guys even have to come in?” said Kylie from the passenger side, eyebrows wrinkled up over her big hot-cocoa eyes, a sneer in her angel lips.
“Fine, we’ll wait outside in the car,” said Jamie.
“Everyone will see us,” said Bailey from the backseat, anxious.
Jamie looked in the rearview, taking in Bailey’s face, a palette of worry. How can she care so much about what other people think already? thought Jamie. She didn’t want the girls to care; she missed the days when they were too little to worry about appearances or be embarrassed, back when they would streak like hippies before jumping into the tub.
“We’re not waiting in the car, Kylie,” said Jamie. “Hey—won’t Stella Piper be there with her family? Bailey can play with Owen.”
From the corner of her eye Jamie saw her shrug, and felt the weight of it.
“They’re not friends anymore,” said Bailey.
“They’re not?” Jamie said to Bailey. “You’re not?” she said to Kylie.
“Why can’t you shut up?” Kylie said, craning her head around the seat to glare at her sister.
“Mom!” shouted Bailey, pointing.
“I heard it, Bailey.” To Kylie: “Don’t talk like that to your sister. Why aren’t you friends with Stella Piper anymore?”
“She thinks Stella’s dumb. And her glasses are funny,” Bailey reported. “She says they make her look like a creature.”
“She’s been your friend forever, since you were in kindergarten,” said Jamie.
“I know,” said Kylie, hushed and hissing.
Jamie stopped third in a trail of cars at a light and said, “You shouldn’t be mean to someone just because they look funny.”
Kylie stared out the window.
“Someday someone might think you look funny, and then how’ll you like it?”
Kylie kept staring.
“Well?” Jamie took Kylie’s chin in her hand and turned her head. “Well?”
“I won’t like it.”
Jamie let go and looked up to see a policeman directing all the cars in her lane to the left.
“What’s this now?” said Jamie.
Bailey looked up over the seat.
“What is it? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know, for God’s sake,” said Jamie.
She pulled up even with the cop and rolled down the window.
“I need to go straight ahead to the Gulf on Branford.”
“Branford? That side of the highway’s closed for the parade, Miss,” said the cop.
“Fuck me,” Jamie said, remembering.
Spring Fest. The town’s annual parade of toilet-paper-covered floats and high school bands slogging their way through “My Girl.”
“Mom!” the kids shouted, embarrassed.
“Well, Officer, I’m about to run outta gas, so what do you recommend?”
The cop leaned into her window.
“Tell you what, I’ll wave you through to St. Cloud; then you can take a right to Route 1080 and you can get to the Hess over that way.”
Jamie pictured the route in her head and nodded. “That’d be just great, thanks.”
“No problem, ma’am,” said the cop, tapping the roof of the car.
Jamie drove the path laid out for her by the cop.
“I can’t believe you said the f-curse to the police,” said Kylie, a look of quiet shame on her face.
“I’m full of surprises,” said Jamie.
“Can we go past the parade? Miss Ferno’s on a float from her church,” said Bailey.
“What? No, we’re already late for this thing,” said Jamie.
She glanced at both of them. They stared out the window. Someday you’ll think I’m funny, she thought. Someday you’ll tell your friends, No, my mom’s cool. Once she said “Fuck me” right in front of a cop.
Finally, when they got to the Hess, Kylie asked, “Can we split a Reese’s?”
She had yet to outgrow an unwavering devotion to sugar—she would pour maple syrup over Frosted Flakes if you turned your head the other way.
“No, you’re going to have all kinds of crap at this party; you don’t need a Reese’s.”
Then the wailing began—you’d think someone was pricking their cuticles with sewing needles. Jamie held her head and leaned over the wheel, thinking she should have smoked the very last bit of resin in the pipe this morning. She didn’t like to drive stoned, but there wasn’t enough in there to mess her up proper, just enough to help her push through, get to the party where it might be acceptable to have a light beer at noon.
“Enough, stop it!” yelled Jamie, feeling her voice crack, the muscles in her neck tense up. “Fine, go get a goddamn Reese’s. Get me a coffee with a Splenda, please.”
She threw a five in Kylie’s lap.
“Go before I change my mind,” she said.
The girls unbuckled their seat belts and scrambled out of the car. Jamie watched them run into the mini-mart, heard the clicks of their dress‑up shoes. She checked her makeup in the mirror and shook her head at herself, then went out to the pumps.
She continued to shake her head, thought, Jesus Christ, do I ever sound like her—her own mother, Gail—“Before I change my mind” and all those threats. First you swear you’ll never be like your mother; then you find yourself sending them to their room and grounding them, and occasionally, once in a while, you hit them once or twice too hard on the back after they say something rude.
Jamie got back in the car and blew air into her hands. Spring Fest my ass, she thought. It was the end of March and still freezing in the mornings and at night, although they’d had more than a few hazy warm days the past two months that fooled everyone into thinking spring was really here; even the black cherry trees were confused—fruit had prematurely formed on the branches, then iced over and broke off the next week in a storm.
The girls had been in the store a long time.
Jamie looked at the time on her phone. 11:32 a.m. They still had to go to Kmart for a gift for Kylie’s friend, which meant they would argue about the under-ten-dollar rule, then engage in negotiations until they got to an under-ten-dollar-without-tax agreement. If there was time, maybe Jamie could browse for something for her aunt Maggie, whose birthday was coming up. Maggie was fond of her, and Jamie didn’t really know why—maybe because she admired Jamie’s pluck, maybe because she’d been a single mother herself after Uncle Stu had left her for a girl in a massage parlor twenty years ago, and she knew how rough it was. Maybe because it was a way to piss off her sister, Jamie’s mother, which she enjoyed doing for a list of reasons either one would tell you all about if you asked them. Jamie ultimately didn’t care about the details since Aunt Maggie had cleaned up in the divorce and got her real estate agent’s license in short order, owned half a dozen homes in the Poconos that she rented out to vacationers, and brokered deals between buyers and the new developments surrounding Denville.
“Goddammit,” said Jamie.
She got out of the car and jogged into the mini-mart, scanned the inside quickly and saw only one other person—a man, looking at a porn magazine.
“Hey,” she said to the fat boy behind the counter. He seemed too old for the braces on his teeth.
“You see two girls in here?”
“Yeah. They went to the bathroom in back.”
Jamie did not say thank you, walked past the guy with the porn and out the back door. She saw Kylie leaning against the cinder block wall, holding a Reese’s cup between her thumb and forefinger like a teacup.
“What the hell, Kylie?” said Jamie.
“She had to pee. She said it was an emergency.”
Jamie stormed past, rapped on the bathroom door and said, “Bailey, come on, let’s move it.”
“I’m washing my hands,” said Bailey from inside.
“You’re done. Let’s go.”
“I’m trying not to touch anything.”
Jamie almost smiled. She had been trying to teach them to line the toilet seat with paper towels, hover above the bowl, and turn the faucets on and off with their elbows in public bathrooms.
“I have Purell in the car. Come on.”
The door opened and Bailey came out. She looked at her mother and covered her mouth with her hands.
“We forgot the coffee!”
“It’s okay,” said Jamie. “Let’s go.”
They went back to the car and drove to the Ridgewood Mall without speaking, Kylie staring out the window, Bailey reading her school workbook. Jamie glanced at both of them and thought they looked nice. Bailey in a pink princess dress, Kylie in a black dress with a purple flower print and the sweetheart neckline that was a little too old for her, Jamie thought, but since it was a hand-me-down from her cousin, she could not complain. They are both so big, she thought, which makes me so old.
The parking lot was surprisingly not crowded, the first three or four rows of the grid full but that was it. God bless Spring Fest, Jamie thought.
“So what does Arianna want?”
“Aren’t we coming in?” said Kylie, shocked.
“No way. I’m going in and out.”
“Come on. That’s so unfair!” they both said.
“Deal with it,” said Jamie. “What does she like?”
Kylie sighed. “She wants a sleeping bag.”
“I’m not buying her a sleeping bag. Does she like jewelry?”
“Great. I’ll get her some bracelets.”
Jamie looked through her purse for her phone and her wallet, left the key in the ignition so the heat would stay on.
“Can we at least listen to music?” said Kylie.
“Yes, you can. I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Jamie got out and was about to slam the door when Bailey said, “Mom?”
She looked up from her book and said, “Do you know you call a group of lions a pride, not a pack?”
Jamie stared at her, then at Kylie, who rolled her eyes.
“No, baby, I didn’t know that.”
She shut the door and left them.
Into the calm, controlled air of Kmart, pop music from ten years ago in her ears, she forced herself to stay focused. If she didn’t have a list, she had trouble concentrating in big box stores, got distracted by displays and sales. That was the point, wasn’t it, she thought, to turn you into a kid again who sees something shiny and wants it. When the girls were with her, a ten-minute trip turned into thirty minutes easily, everyone leaving with candy and gum and a tank top.
Jamie went to the toy aisles, skimmed over the bright boxes and tubes and balls to the girls section, Make-Your-Own-Headband, Home Manicure Kit, Bead-a-Necklace—she picked that one up; it was $9.99. You got lucky today, Arianna.
She made her way to the cards and wrapping paper, grabbed a pink gift bag with tissue paper already lined inside and a white card dangling from the handle.
Then on her way to the checkout she stopped when she saw a sheer cowl-necked sweater on a sale rack. The tag read $21.99. Nope. At the register, she checked her phone (11:55). Oh who cares, she thought. It doesn’t matter if you’re late to this kind of thing; it’s an open house. Suddenly she felt relaxed, realized her hands were in fists, holding the strings of the gift bag hostage in her fingers. The day opened up in front of her. The party would eat up a couple of hours, then maybe they’d stop by her parents’ place, then she could pick up McDonald’s for dinner, and then they could waste time until Darrell came over and she could send them to her room and let them watch TV in her bed. It didn’t seem that bad when she thought of it that way. Just some hours to fill. She paid, picked up her bag, and left. Into the parking lot, back to her car, she sped up. Confused at first, she thought, This is my car. Checked the dent in the fender, the plate. No girls. I’m going to kill them, she thought, took a breath too quickly and coughed, started talking to them in her head. Don’t even tell me you can’t tie it in a knot till we get to the fucking party, Bailey. Or you, was this your idea? she thought, picturing Kylie’s face. You and your sweet tooth, looking for free samples. Jamie looked around at the stores: Reno’s Coffee, Morgan House-wares, StoneField Ice Cream. She ran to the latter, coughing like she was a smoker, entered through the doors. It was quiet and cold inside. A woman and two little boys and a baby in a car seat sat in a booth. The girl behind the counter had a ring in her lip. “You see two girls come in here?” said Jamie. “Yeah, they were just in here.” For a second they stared at each other. “So where are they?” said Jamie. Lip Ring shrugged. “How should I know? They left a few minutes ago.” Jamie could feel the blood rush in her chest. She started to leave, then turned back and said, “Lemme ask you something: How the fuck do you eat with that thing in your face?” She left and slammed the door before she could hear the answer. Then Reno’s Coffee— a couple, a man post-workout, everyone on his phone.
“Did you see two girls in party dresses?” she asked the people behind the counter. “Eight and ten years old. Did they come in to use the bathroom?” Then to the couple and the man: “Did you see two girls?”
They all said no.
She left, looked back at her car, still empty.
Then Morgan Housewares, Global Market, Eastern Sports. By the time she got back to Kmart it was 12:11, and the fear had become a rock in her throat.
“I can’t find my girls,” she said to the security guard. She put her hand to her lips after she said it, like she was trying to get the words back.
“Did you lose them in the store, ma’am?” he said. His double chin was strangled by his uniform shirt.
“No, they were in the car. I was in here. Now they’re gone.”
“We can page them in the store,” he said.
“They’re not in the store. I was in the store.”
“Maybe they came in to look for you,” he said.
“Yeah, okay. Yes, please, page them.”
She was standing in Customer Service with Geri the Customer Service Liaison and two other security guards when she heard the guard with the double chin’s voice say her daughters’ names: “Kylie Brandt, Bailey Brandt, please come to the Customer Service Center.”
Jamie watched people emerge from the aisles, calm, bored. It was not their daughters’ names in the air.
“You have bathrooms? Where are the bathrooms?” she said.
Geri pointed to the left.
“You can hear the loudspeaker in there too,” she said. Jamie couldn’t even see this woman; her face was a smudge with dull gray spots in the middle.
Jamie ran now through the white aisles, hearing the sound of her own wheezing and rationalizations as she talked to herself, “She had to pee, Bailey had to pee. Maybe one of them got sick from that Reese’s.”
She threw herself onto the door and into the bathroom, knocked on and pushed open every stall. A woman with a walker and a younger woman stood at the sinks.
“Did you see two girls? I can’t find my girls.”
The woman with the walker appeared not to understand. The younger woman said, “No, what did they look like?”
“They’re wearing dresses,” Jamie said, and ran out again, to the front of the store.
She passed the security guards and Geri, and now a small crowd of people looking and talking, to the front doors where she exited, ran into the parking lot, back to her car, which was still empty. She hit the hood with her hand and ran back to the store, where more people stood, watching her.
The face of a man with a mustache blurred in front of her, next to the guard with the double chin.
“Ma’am, I put out a Code Adam alert for the entire mall and called the police. Do you want to sit down?”
Jamie didn’t understand the words he said. He held out his hand, to guide her inside to a cushioned folding chair, where someone would bring her a glass of water.
Jamie didn’t take it. She dug her fingernails into her scalp and whispered, “My girls . . . my girls.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An earlier reviewer wrote that this was a book you can’t put down. It may sound trite, but it’s true. This Louisa Luna mystery grabs you in chapter one and holds on right to the end. Her characters are vivid and evolving. The plot builds excitement with every twist and turn. By the end, you will hope that this is beginning of a series featuring the two protagonists, Vega and Caplan.
I loved evey minute! The two main characters are so interesting and right. Hope this begins a series! Love, love, love their interaction and Vega is a hero and Cap is so lovable! More, please!!
Two Girls Down is the fourth novel by American author, Louisa Luna. Even though she’s no worn and weathered PI, Alice Vega has a stellar reputation for finding lost children so, when Maggie Shambley’s two young grand nieces go missing from the K-Mart carpark at the Ridgewood Mall, it’s Alice whom she calls. Kylie and Bailey Brandt, ten and eight years old, were left in the car while their mother, Jamie ran in to get a last-minute birthday gift. Alice has some excellent sources at her disposal, including a very competent hacker, but she needs some local help, so engages disgraced Denville PD ex-cop, Max Caplan to assist. Caplan’s currently a PI chasing skips and cheats, but Alice knows he’s not dumb. The PD’s Captain Hollows, however, is unwilling to share resources, so Cap and Alice need to get the vital information another way. What intelligence they do have, in the form of witnesses and camera feeds, soon has them tracking down exes (boyfriends, husbands), family of other missing persons, petty thieves, drug addicts, and possible paedophiles. From their different backgrounds and levels of experience, Vega and Cap each bring a unique style of questioning witnesses and suspects: both get good results. As a team, their expert detective work ultimately delivers information that paints a shocking scenario. Luna gives the reader a fast-paced tale that has her protagonists following false leads and distracted by red herrings while she ramps up the tension in an isolated cabin in the woods, then races towards a jaw-dropping conclusion. Luna’s characters are much more than stereotypes: Alice is clever and street-smart, independent and well able to look after herself; Max obviously has principles and is a good dad; his relationship with Nell, his intelligent and mature sixteen-year-old daughter, is great; their banter emphasises the love and care they have for each other, despite his flaws and failings; even the minor characters have a little more depth than first appearances indicate. The dialogue is witty and often blackly funny. This is superb crime fiction and more of Alice Vega and Max Caplan will definitely be welcome.
Couldn't finish it
Two Girls Down is a very intriguing thriller. As I read I became attached to the characters. The author did an excellent job with character development. The story was very engaging and not a predictable ending. I did see a flaw in the development of the relationship between Alice and Cap. It seemed like the writing style was a little different towards the end with some corner line. But it did not distract from the story. As the book goes on it gets dark. There are a few images I will have a hard time getting out of my head after reading this book. This was the first book I read by this author and I will defiantly look for more. I recommend this book as a great thriller for anyone that likes a good mystery. I received this galley from NetGalley.
Two Girls Down was a taut thriller that introduced two characters that I hope become part of a series. Cap & Vega are brought in to help find two missing girls. Their chemistry is excellent, both bringing something to the other to make a well balanced and highly capable team. Several twists and turns keep you guessing until the end. Well written with an interesting plot, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good mystery that keeps you on your toes.
2:30a.m. and I just finished TWO GIRL DOWN. I'M LONG ING FOR THE STORY TO CONTINUE. Maybe a sequel with Cap and Vega together as partner in the private eye business. Wonderful character development tucked inside a thriller of a plot.
And doesn’t let you go till you’ve finished.
I love Vega and Cap. Looking forward to more?
Alice Vega is a bounty hunter who finds missing persons. She keeps her emotions close to her vest, but inside she is in turmoil. When she was contacted by the missing girls' family to work on the case, she expected that the police would be threatened and wouldn't work with her, so who better to help her than local Private Investigator Max "Cap" Caplan who resigned from the police department under disagreeable terms. But will this cool-headed man and "goofy" dad of a bright teenage daughter see through her and find out her secrets? Will she be able to find the girls in time? "Never assume you’re gonna find who you’re looking for. Assume you’re gonna find the other thing. Which will generally be someone who wants to kill you. Sometimes they’re the same." Cap agrees to help Vega with her unorthodox ways of interrogation and subduing perps and her trans-formative personality going from serious to flirtatious to vulnerable in a matter of minutes. Will he be able to work on this case without it becoming personal? I see hints of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo's Lisbeth Salander in Alice Vega's character. Vega has the same quiet confidence with underlying anger that Salander has, but I felt that Vega opened up more easily. She is a great character and I was waiting with intense anticipation on what she would do next. Cap's character is a great compliment to Vega because of his level-headedness to deal with certain volatile situations. The story line is fast-paced with many twists and turns. When I thought I had it figured out, it went in another direction. The ending was incredible, very disturbing, and well worth the wait. If you love suspense thrillers, crime fiction, and great character development, give this novel a try!
Alice Vega is a bounty hunter hired to find two girls who were kidnapped from a mall. Vega is a female Bosch. She is tough and smart. Teaming up with a disgraced ex cop, they navigate the twists, turns, and lies on their quest to investigate the crime. Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. I was offered a digital copy of Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This was a decent read. The main character, Alice Vega, was very strange. Intelligent and tough, but weird. There was something that kept niggling at my brain while reading this. Then it hit me. This was a YA book. I guess I should have figured that out way before the end with all the "duh's" I said to myself when the book was way over explaining things. Not that being a YA is bad, it was just that it was a surprise to me that I didn't figure out until the end. A good read that I enjoyed. Thanks to Doubleday Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Oh my gosh. This book was fantastic. I really couldn't put it down - spent most of the night up reading it. Worth every minute. I love Vega and so hope she appears in more books.
I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the darker side of mysteries and a real kick-ass heroine and a totally shocking denouement (I mean she actually kicks literal ass!). The characters are written very realistically, their backstories are revealed quite slowly and that is a bit refreshing for me. If I had one major problem it would be that Alice Vega wasn't given a larger part, at times she was treated like a secondary character and I didn't get the feeling that she was supposed to be that. This is a wonderful book and my only other complaint would be that I couldn't keep all the character's straight -especially if I had to step away from reading for a while (but that might be a problem for my rapidly aging brain! lol). Anyone can read the synopsis, so I won't go there - I'm just going to let you know that this was a riveting look into the small-town life, an interesting look into the drug culture, Police-procedure in a small town and what happens to a family when their children are abducted. I hope that this becomes a series. *ARC supplied by the publisher/Edelweiss.
Cap, single father and private detective, and Alice Vega, a mysterious woman from the other side of the country who just happens to be very successful in tracking down missing persons, are called on to join forces when two young sisters disappear. At odds with local law enforcement, they initially experience resistance as the girls' mother desperately tries to think of anyone who would want to kidnap her children. The connection between Cap and Vega deepens as they get closer to finding the answer and discover that two prior disappearances may be connected. Deadbeat dads and drug dealers pale in comparison to the real perpetrators and to their reasons for these young girls, all connected by dance class. A disturbing realization but fascinating read.
I enjoyed reading this book it kept me intrigued all the way through. Great book to read you won't want to put it down.
Two Girls Down is a great book. It’s a thrill ride of epic proportions. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It’s chock full of one liners and one bad ass female bounty hunter/private investigator named Alice Vega from California. Alice is hired to go to Denville, Pennsylvania to locate two young sisters who went missing from a mall parking lot. Alice does her job with precision and doesn’t let anyone or anything get in her way. She also enlists the help of former cop turned private investigator Max Caplan who has his own dragons to slay considering that he left his police career in disgrace. There was no shortage of suspects concerning the girls’ disappearance. The police are clueless. Alice has resources that are uncanny. She has a hacker named The Bastard who can get her all kinds of information. Max’s role ends up being the anchor since he was able to stop her from being completely unhinged. In her own words, Alice is “The Motherf*cker Who Gets Sh*t Done.” She is relentless and bows down to no one. Even when she gets hit in the face with a wooden board, she just shakes it off. In another instance, she subdues several guys with items she picked up from a hardware store. She is clearly the Black Widow. It’s hard to believe that she only went through basic training in the Army. I could go on and on about her attitude and sheer confidence but you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Two Girls Down was amazing. The story and the characters are well written. I can’t give much detail because it’s a mystery at its core. There is never a dull moment and you will never figure out who done what until the big reveal. I hope that Alice’s story doesn’t end here. She has a lot of depth and I can see a bright future in sequels for her. **Received a copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed.**
Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is a very highly recommended mystery/thriller. Jamie Brandt, a single mother, is running late while on her way to a birthday party where the whole family is invited. When she stops at Kmart to buy a gift, she leaves 10-year-old Kylie and 8-year-old Bailey in the car while she runs into the store. When she returns, the sisters are gone. After 48 hours with no lead, Jamie's Aunt Maggie Shambley, hires California bounty hunter Alice Vega to locate the girls. Vega is a no nonsense enigmatic investigator who has a well-publicized national reputation for finding abducted children. The Denville, Pennsylvania police chief, in a pique of misplaced pride, immediately refuses to work with Vega to find the girls, despite the fact that after budget cuts, the department can barely keep up with the local oxycodone and meth epidemic. With help from "the Bastard," a computer hacker who assists her, Vega has access to resources and information the police don't. She also hires a local disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is currently working as a PI. Vega knows that he has inside contacts and a favor he could call in with the local police. Vega and Cap work together to uncover a complicated web of lies, false leads, and inconsistent statements to try and find the girls before it is too late. I liked Vega and Cap, who are both flawed but well-developed characters. They work very well together. Cap's problems (and strengths) are presented upfront, but Vega's are hidden and very slowly revealed in small increments. Both of them are fully aware of the ticking clock and how every hour, every minute, the girls are not found is one minute closer to what may be their death. They are both keen observers of people and can pick out clues that the police are overlooking. Luna uses a third-person narrative that allows us access to the main protagonists' thoughts and feelings. Their thoughts and motivations are so different and contrast starkly with each other. She also does a great job describing all of the supporting characters; they are all written as real people. This is an excellent nail-biting complex thriller that moves at a steady pace, building up the tension incrementally with each new suspect and lead. The writing is exceptional; the plot is complex and carefully reveals each new piece of evidence. I was totally immersed in the drama. The final conclusion was a shocker and took me by surprise. Well, Done, Louisa Luna! I am hoping that this signals the start of a series featuring Vega and Cap. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Doubleday via Netgalley.
This was really good! I went into this book rather blindly having never read the author before and not seeing much about the book. I thought it looked like a rather good mystery so I jumped in and started reading. I didn't stop reading until I had reached the end of the book. It has been a long time since I wanted to read a whole book in a single sitting but that is exactly what I ended up doing with this story. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this wonderfully written mystery. This book grabbed me right away. You know from the very start that something bad is going to happen to Jamie's kids. When they disappear in the parking of the local Kmart, there aren't a lot of clues as to where they might may be. Jamie's aunt hires a private investigator who has a reputation for finding lost people, Alice Vega. Vega is determined to find the girls and will do what it takes to find them quickly. She enlists the help of a former cop turned private investigator, Cap. Vega and Cap have very different styles of investigating but they soon form a great team. Together they sort through clues and piece a trail back to the girls. I liked the characters in this story. Vega and Cap were both really interesting characters that ended up in their jobs for very different reasons. Vega was more than willing to cross over the line if that is what is was going to take to bring the girls home. She was tough and worked tirelessly. Cap seemed more like your normal good guy. He is a really good guy who puts his teen daughter first in his life. They were both really smart and have a lot of great instincts. There was a lot of excitement in this story. I was actually pretty nervous about what would happen a time or two in this story. I couldn't figure out how things would work out and just had to go along with Vega and Cap to find out. I didn't expect to have an emotional reaction to this story but as I read to the end of the story, I found myself with a broken heart. I would recommend this book to others. This was a very fast paced novel that was almost impossible to put down. I will definitely be reading more for this talented author in the future. I received an advanced reader edition of this book from Doubleday Books via First to Read.
This is another one of those books you just can't put down: a plot that grabs you by the front of your shirt and doesn't let go, with excellent character development, and what a way with words. Two Girls Down, by Louisa Luna, takes the reader through the emotional roller coster of searching for missing children. That emotional trauma is, of course, felt most by the children's families, but we are shown how it also affects the authorities involved in the search. Two Girls Down is the heart-wrenching story of the kidnapping of two little girls, and the search and rescue effort. It would be easy to blame the mother, Jamie Brant, as she curses at them and is, herself, an abuser of both drugs and alcohol, but she loves her children. Jamie's aunt hires a famous bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to find the girls. Lead character, Vega, refers to herself as someone who finds missing persons. Lead supporting character, Max Caplan (Cap) is a disgraced police officer turned private investigator who Vega hires to assist her. Cap's disgrace is due to his taking the fall for a younger officer who had a family to support. Through the voices of her characters, Luna reminds us of the dangers of starring at our phones instead of watching our children in any public place; of our prejudices: one character disliked Vega because of her appearance - she was a quarter Mexican. Then there is the effect drug use and alcoholism have on families: one older couple was at risk of losing their home because of their daughter's abuse of drugs and alcohol. The opioid crisis was mentioned several times. Through the voice of the narrator, she reminds us of many of today's issues: urban sprawl is mentioned more than once, and runoff from a coal mine is said to be causing a stream to be named Black Creek. One character with leathery skin was said to resemble another attractive character, except that she had spent too much time in the sun. Also, mentioned was the dangers of tobacco use (a person who had smoked for years and looked it, and another who didn't know if her cancer was caused by a life with parents and a husband who smoked or by asbestos in her workplace). All of these things are subtly woven into a compelling yet agonizing, and all too realistic story. This is one that will stay with you after you have closed the book, or turned off your e-reader. Two Girls Down will be available for purchase on January 9, 2018.
This is my first time reading a Louisa Luna novel. Two Girls Down is an intense investigative suspense that follows Alice Vega and Max Caplan as they search for two missing girls. They disappeared nearly without a trace, but Vega's clever skills get the ball rolling in the right direction. I was really impressed with the flow of the story as it follows Cap and Vega tracking down leads and looking for any possible connections. They run in circles until the breaking lead comes to light. What also made their investigation so compelling was the characters themselves. Vega is like a machine, running on fumes and determination to close her case. On the other hand, Cap can't leave his cop past behind and holds tightly to his anger. He uses his skills to charm their suspects into speaking while Vega has to hold back from assaulting everyone. At first, I was a bit disappointed in her character for being too single-minded and brash. However, as the story progressed I realized her character has layers and a pain filled past that somewhat explains her behavior. Also, it worked out because Vega and Cap complement each other in ways that make the story more seamless. The writing style is unique and really allows you to hear the voice of the characters. I am definitely looking forward to more from Lousia Luna and I would not be upset to see more about this duo! *ARC received via First to Read*
She had intended for it be to quick, to leave the two girls inside the car while she picked up a present inside the local Kmart. A quick snatch and go, she got the gift and headed out to her car. It appeared she was successful until Jamie reached her car and found it empty. Her two daughters were gone. Jamie enlisted the help of Alice Vega, a PI with a remarkable history of finding missing individuals but she is not welcomed by the Denville Police Department. Needing information from the department, Vega persuades a former member of their office to join her team. These two are quite the combination as Vega is resilient and Cap is brilliant. A perfect combination for this case as they confront the Denville Police and work together to locate the missing sisters. There doesn’t seem to be much to go on as the police try to piece this case together and with their resources stretched thin, the police are left scratching their heads. Meanwhile, Vega and Cap are talking to everyone and investigating every lead. This rigorous investigation provides many leads, some helpful and some not. What I enjoyed about this novel was how Vega and Cap worked together to solve this case. Cap used to be a cop, so he is used to following a set of rules whereas Vega sets her own rules, working together they have to cross some lines with each other. They try to work with the police department and share their leads hoping that it will help the case which I thought was an interesting twist with this novel considering that Vega and Cap were doing most of the work. I really enjoyed how the author wrapped up this novel. It wasn’t an abrupt ending but an exciting conclusion that was suited the novel perfectly. I really enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it. I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for this copy,
Meet Alice Vega, one of the very few female bounty hunters known. Vega is well-known for her ability to find lost/kidnapped children. Two young girls, sisters, disappear from a parking lot at the mall. Their mother hires Vega as the local police don't seem to be doing much of anything. When the police tell Vega to go away, they don't need her help, she enlists the aid of former cop Max Caplan. With very little to go on, Alice and Cap start at the beginning, looking at all the suspects, everyone the girls have been in contact with. There are secrets and lies, bigger lies, evasions, drug dealers, and murder. Time is running out and Alice and Cap are getting desperate. This is a new author to me... and one I'm sure I will see more of. She has breathed life into the characters of Alice and Cap. Their back stories are terrific. The story premise is exciting..full of action. I found myself trying to guess who took the girls ... I failed. It was a surprise ending. Many thanks to the author / Doubleday Books / Netgalley for the uncorrected ebook file of TWO GIRLS DOWN. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.