Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Two Girls Down

Title:  Two Girls Down
Author:  Louisa Luna
Publication Information:  Doubleday. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0385542496 / 978-0385542494

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Jamie Brandt was not a bad mother."

Favorite Quote:  "You said every day we make a million little choices, and we should try to make the right ones as much as we can. And you said rarely in life do the big choices present themselves, so when they do, we have to take advantage of the opportunity. We have to do the right thing."

This mystery uses a formula that works in many books. Max Caplan is a down and out, divorced ex-cop. He is also honest and a great father to his intelligent teenage daughter. Alice Vega is an independent enigmatic private investigator with a behind the scenes IT expert who seems able to locate any and all information.

Their paths cross in a small Pennsylvania town. Two young girls disappear from a car in a parking lot while the mother runs quickly into the store. That image conjures up a parent's nightmare. The family calls in Alice Vega from California. Research leads Vega to Max. The police want neither of them involved, but a reluctant partnership forms nevertheless between Vega and Max. The clock ticks in rapidly in the race to find the missing girls before it's too late.

For what should be an action packed book, the story seems to move rather slowly. Much of the book reads like a police procedural. A lead is identified. It is followed. Interviews are done. A new lead is identified. And so on in a methodical, meticulous approach which works to solve a mystery but needs something more to fully engage. As is common with mysteries, the book has a lot of characters. In a small town, the stories of some overlap, and some just pick up and drop off. At times, it is difficult to follow who is being talked about as conversation shift throughout the book.

The main characters are a bit more developed. Throughout, the book drop hints and clues about the back stories for Max and Vega. However, the stories are never completely developed; they leave me wishing more details were given. It would perhaps make the characters more real and more memorable. A romance between the two is also hinted at, which I don't need to see in this book. Sometimes, it should be possible for two professionals to work together and create a successful duo without venturing into romance. It is not necessary. The fact of the undeveloped back stories, the hint of a romance, and the fact that the ending statement is a promise to return leaves me thinking that a series may be planned featuring the two characters.

Interestingly, while I enjoy reading about strong, female characters, Max is the one who engages me more in this book. Perhaps, his relationship with his daughter introduces a more emotional side which becomes more appealing than Vega's aloofness. The point of Vega's toughness seems pushed too hard in the book; it does not ring true. She is a little too perfectly imperfect. Max's daughter is perhaps my favorite character in the book. She is just a little too good and too perceptive to be true. However, she adds a bit of lightness to what is a dark and heavy story.

A formula for a book becomes that for the reason that it works for the most part. This structure leads to a quick, engaging read. However, it is the books that diverge from the formula that become memorable. This one really does not. It is momentarily engaging, but ultimately forgettable.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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