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Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Two Girls Down

by Louisa Luna

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Quick take

When two girls go missing without a trace, it's up to Detective Vega to do the impossible and bring them home.

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As addictive, cinematic, and binge-worthy a narrative as The Wire and The Killing, Two Girls Down is a bold new thriller from a writer of immense talent and verve.

When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied.

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.

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Two Girls Down

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 blue 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.

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Why I love it

Louisa Luna amps up the fear with the first line of her lightning-charged new thriller, Two Girls Down. The hackles on my back went up as I read, "Jamie Brandt wasn’t a bad mother." Oh no—not a bad mother and what happened? Being a good mother is all about second chances but with one wrong move, the possibility of a second chance can be destroyed forever. During the five minutes it takes Jamie to dash into a Kmart, her two young daughters disappear. Jamie has broken one of the cardinal rules of motherhood by leaving her girls alone in a car and now she’ll have to pay with a lifetime of pain and regret.

Can no one help her? The local cops in her small Pennsylvania town are understaffed, overwhelmed by the opioid epidemic, and incapable of finding "their asshole with a mirror and a flashlight." Extraordinary and necessary action comes in the form of a bounty hunter from California. From the moment Alice Vega enters the scene, everything—the pace of the hunt, the emotions of the family, the thrills and the chills for the reader, the fear and the danger for everyone—gets ramped up to a higher, and then even higher notch, and the race never lets up until the very last page. Two Girls Down is a thriller set at warp speed. Every minute of it will get your heart pumping, your mind careening, and your legs twitching, ready to join in the action.

Vega is tough, young enough to remember what it felt like to be a lost girl (and as we learn, once she was a very lost girl) and old enough to know the only way out is to fight hard, and to fight smart. Almost mythical in her ability to exist on little food and even less sleep, Vega also has an uncanny sense of what bad guys do and where they go to hide. Whether looking for a "skip" (someone who has jumped bail) or a missing child, Vega’s tuned in and focused, intent on her quarry and relentless in her pursuit. Trained in meditation, she uses it not to find inner calm but to find the bad guy. For Vega, "there was never peace when she closed her eyes. There was always, always a fight."

Vega is no loner. She knows she needs help to stalk and capture her prey. A tech whiz who goes by the name of OMGBastard does her online hacking and on the ground, Vega calls in the help of a local ex-cop who left the force under an undeserved cloud of misconduct and failure. Max Caplan and Vega are a good team but they both know time is running out. They follow up every lead, every hint, every possibility—and the hunt becomes deeply personal for both. With enough twists to keep every reader guessing until the very end, and more heart-stopping moments than the scariest roller coaster, Two Girls Down will keep you up and amped, emotionally invested and physically bound to the fate of the two sisters and their mother. After all, Jamie is not a bad mother—and with Vega and Caplan’s help, she might be lucky enough to get a second chance at being a good one.

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Member ratings (4,434)

  • Marina C.

    Beaverton , OR

    Couldn’t put it down! I read all night. Enjoyed Luna’s writing style & character development. The flow of the investigation was interesting & I found myself hopeful for Vega & Cap on a personal level.

  • Susan F.

    Hartsdale , NY

    It was a slow start but as you read it gets more interesting. The characters are good . Caps daughter Nell is a great character, she’s brught, funny and cared about her dad. Vega is a fiesty characteR

  • Debra L.

    Hubert, NC

    Alice Vega, known for being able to find missing children, is called to locate 2 missing girls. She works with ex-cop, Cap, in this psychologically thrilling novel. I sure hope that there's a sequel!

  • Victoria C.

    Melbourne, FL

    I found myself having to get up at night to find out what was happening with Vega and Cap. Been a long time since I enjoyed a book like this. I think it needs to be edited a bit (too many 'she said')

  • vickie p.

    Spotswood, NJ

    i loved this book and will look for other books by louisa luna. I thought it was fast moving and i didn't want to put it down. I thought i had it all figured out but i was wrong. great book ..thank

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