Review: Two Girls Down – Louisa Luna

Two Girls Down
Alice Vega #1
Louisa Luna
Text Publishing
ISBN: 9781925773644

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.

When two sisters disappear from a parking lot while their mother is in Kmart, the devastated family hires bounty hunter Alice Vega to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched too thin by budget cuts and the growing 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, 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.


My View:
What an explosive, mind blowing read! I loved every minute of this read, the first few pages introduced us to characters that have become my new favourite protagonists. Within the first paragraphs the author captured so many emotions; fear, dread, anticipation and… hope, I could not put the book down.

Louisa Luna is a new to me author – I am so glad I discovered her and this series. This is a book that captured my attention, had me cheering the protagonists on whilst simultaneously dreading the turn of the page and discovering the next complex, difficult and dangerous scenario, had me holding my breath as Alice charged head on into the conflict desperate in her attempt to save the innocent victims …what a read!

This book is easily a contender for my best crime fiction read of 2020 and I cannot wait for The Janes (Alice Vega #2) to be released.

Post Script: Punishment – Anne Holt


Punishment (Vik & Stubø #1)

 Anne Holt

Allen & Unwin


ISBN: 9781782398714



One afternoon after school, nine-year-old Emilie doesn’t come home. Her father finds the backpack from her late mother, that would never be abandoned willingly. A week later, a five-year-old boy goes missing. And then another child.


Meanwhile, Johanne Vik, a former FBI profiler with a troubled past and a difficult young daughter, tries to overturn a decades-old false murder conviction. Police Commissioner Stubo lost his wife and daughter, has only his grandson left, and needs to solve the case. Johanna resists helping until the bodies return to their homes with notes “You got what you deserved”.



My View:

What a fabulous read!  Chapter one and a child is abducted, immediately the heart quickens, the tension on the page is palpable, the tension I am feeling is sky high. Works of crime fiction where the victims are children are never an easy read – Anne Holt however has managed to write her victims (and their deaths) with a sensitivity that gave me permission to continue reading and to enjoy this well written narrative.



Well rounded characters, multiple viewpoints, historical crime and current mysteries, this book has it all.  The characters are flawed, yet ordinary everyday people.  Ordinary yet bewitching…you will want to know more about them, you will care for them and be concerned for their outcomes.  It is a testament to the high calibre of the writing when a reader cares for the individuals created in the mind of a writer and introduced to you by mere pen and ink.


I want to read more by this author, this is definitely a series I will follow.


Originally published in 2001 this narrative has lost nothing with the passage of time, in fact the theme of “male entitlement” is just as relevant today. An excellent read!


Post Script: Find Her – Lisa Gardner

One of the most exciting books I have read in a while. Lisa Gardner really is on top of her game!

Find Her

Find Her

DD Warren # 8

Lisa Gardner

Hachette Australia


ISBN: 9781472220288


AN ESCAPED KIDNAPPING VICTIM BECOMES AN AVENGER OF INNOCENTS. CAN SHE ESCAPE WHEN SHE’S TARGETED AGAIN? The eighth novel in Sunday Times bestseller Lisa Gardner’s Detective D. D. Warren series. Harlan Coben says FIND HER is ‘taut psychological suspense’ which ‘should not be missed’.




My name is Flora Dane and I was kidnapped from a beach on spring break. I spent 472 days with my captor before I was found.




I spent the last five years trying to reacquaint myself with the rhythms of my life. But everything is different. I’ve had to learn how to protect myself in this dangerous new world.




There are other predators out there and I’ll do anything to stop them. Am I a victim or a vigilante? Detective D. D. Warren doesn’t know. Sometimes neither do I.


When another girl disappears, I know I have to FIND HER, whatever it takes, even if it means putting myself in danger…


Escaped kidnap victim Flora Dane has once again disappeared. Has the self-proclaimed vigilante become a victim? Or is something far more sinister at play? D.D. will have to race against the clock if she is going to Find Her.




My View

One of the most exciting books I have read in a while. Lisa Gardner really is on top of her game!


This read has one of our favourite detectives D D Warren back on the case, a case that is crammed full of mystery; missing women, abductions, dead bodies and a victim/ possible vigilante to contend with, the pulse races as you turn the pages.


Another great hook in the prologue sets up the narrative and your eyes will fly across the page hungry to read every word.

“These are the things I didn’t know:

When you first wake up in a dark wooden box, you’ll tell yourself this isn’t happening. You’ll push against the lid, of course. No surprises there. You’ll beat at the sides with your fists, pummel your heels against the bottom…And you’ll scream. You will scream and scream and scream.”


There are some fantastic twists and reveals that will catch you unawares – they are quietly and gently slipped into the pages, expect them when you least expect them.


And you will appreciate the dedication, “For survivors everywhere.”

Post Script: The Girls She Left Behind – Sarah Graves

The Girls She Left Behind

The Girls She Left Behind

A Lizzie Snow Novel

Sarah Graves

Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine


ISBN: 9780553390438



Sure to thrill readers of Jenny Milchman, Linda Castillo, and Lisa Gardner, The Girls She Left Behind marks the return of ex–Boston homicide detective Lizzie Snow, the new sheriff’s deputy in Maine’s Great North Woods.


For Lizzie Snow, the ice and snow of her first punishing North Woods winter are dreadful enough. But near the small town of Bearkill a stubborn forest fire now rages out of control, and as embers swirl dangerously in the smoke-filled air, a teenage girl with a history of running away has dropped out of sight again. The locals and the law both think Tara Wylie is up to her old tricks—until her mother receives a terrifying text message.


Equally disturbing: Henry Gemerle—a kidnapper and rapist who once held three girls prisoner for fifteen years—has escaped, and may be lurking in Bearkill. As the fire closes in, Lizzie teams up with her boss Sheriff Cody Chevrier and state cop Dylan Hudson to search for the missing girl and the wily fugitive. But they’re blocked by Tara’s mother, a frustrating teller of needless lies and keeper of dark, incomprehensible secrets.


Following a trail of grisly clues—a bloodstained motel room, a makeshift coffin in a shallow grave—Lizzie is drawn ever closer to the flames in her race to save an innocent and corner a monster. Someone else also wants to find Tara Wylie and Henry Gemerle, though, for reasons that have nothing to do with mercy or justice. And when they all meet, the inferno threatening Bearkill will pale in comparison to the hell that’s about to break loose.


My View:

We are all guilty of thinking; “This will never happen to me”, “Yes I’ll be careful,” “We are going together mum, we will stick together”, “We will be fine.” And it is all fine….until one time it isn’t! Compelling reading that is full of tension, plot twists and turns and behaviours/scenarios we know have actually happened, can happen again.


This is part two of the Lizzie Snow series yet can easily be read as a standalone. Coming to a movie theatre near you soon – I bet!






Post Script: Pretty Girls – a Novel – Karin Slaughter

Cover Pretty Girls

Pretty Girls

 A Novel

 Karin Slaughter

Random House, Cornerstone

Cornerstone Digital

ISBN: 9781473507876



The compelling new standalone novel from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of Unseen and Cop Town.


With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved.

But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

My View:

A narrative that will chill you to the bone! Outstanding!


This novel should come with a warning, several warnings actually.


  1. Do not start preparing meals or doing anything else that requires you attention when you start reading this book. I was fortunate – I just managed to rescue the dinner in the oven before if became charcoal. Then I finished the book.
  2. Book a yoga or Pilates class or a session of massage for after you finish reading this book – your body will be so tense you will need assistance to wind down after you finish reading this fantastic book.
  3. Second thoughts a night cap might also do the trick.
  4. Once you have read this you cannot “unread’ the images- be warned- graphic violence.
  5. Be prepared to read about truly strong heroines, who do not heed my warnings of not to open that door, or not to go there or to listen to their intuition; especially that little voice in your head that says “do not trust that cop.” They won’t pay you any heed! And you will still be filled with tension.
  6. Be prepared – to read the most outstanding book in the sub-genre Domestic Noir.
  7. Be prepared to read this in one sitting – you just have to know how this will end.
  8. You wont be the same after you have read this.
  9. And finally there are no star ratings that can do this justice – I say 10 stars!!!!


Post Script: The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

The Shut Eye

The Shut Eye

Belinda Bauer

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press

ISBN: 9780593072875




Bauer’s great gift is her ability to surprise the reader’ Sunday Telegraph


Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.


And now they are all his mother has left.


Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.


When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…


But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?


Or is he something far, far worse?


My View: 

Brilliant.   Amazing.  Incredible.  Delightful.  Haunting.  Evocative.  Engaging.  Surprising.

Have you got the hint? I loved this book! Superb writing, wonderful complex narrative, a hint of dark humour, exceptionally moving characters… psychics, love, death and a mania of blue and circles I could feel and see myself!! This must be one of the most outstanding reads I have come across. The last thing I will say about this read is don’t just take my word for it – read this yourself – YOU MUST READ IT.




Post Script: Crash and Burn – Lisa Gardner

The truth is sometimes ugly and confusing and complicated.

Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

Lisa Gardner



ISBN: 9781472220226


Description: My name is Nicky Frank.


I’m in hospital after crashing my car. I am afraid. The only thing that I can think about is Vero. I know I have to save her but why couldn’t I find her? She’s just a little girl.


The man standing in my hospital room tells me we are married but there is no Vero. That six months ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused changes to my personality. I have dramatic mood swings, an inability to concentrate and large gaps in my memory. I’m much easier to anger these days. And I drink. All of which he says explains the car accident and my confusion.


Now a Sergeant Wyatt Foster is investigating. He has questions about the car accident. He has concerns about my husband. And he’s worried about a missing girl.


He would like to know what happened to me. So would I.


My name is Nicky Frank. This is my life.



My View:

Lisa Gardner – how do you keep doing this? You keep coming up with plots that are twisted, addictive and compelling. You keep me enthralled, you keep me turning the pages and you keep me up at night reading until I finish and then finally I can sleep when all has been revealed and I have digested and re-examined all you have shared with me. This is a heartbreaking yet realistic scenario, it presents many a quandary, many moral dilemmas and yet managed to be quietly optimistic. I loved the characters, all the characters (well maybe not so much Thomas but even he had his good points). Nicky Frank is so credible – in her post concussive behaviours and her desire to seek the truth – whilst all the time hiding a huge secret and eventually revealing a shocking plot twist or two. Brilliant! More!!!


Post Script: Daughter – Jane Shemilt

This is a novel of intrigue and suspense that will tug at the hearts of any parent – a child goes missing.



Jane Shemilt

Michael Joseph

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9781405916516



Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.


But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.


As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.



My View:

This narrative will resonate with many contemporary parents and in particular puts a spotlight on the pressures women deal with on a day to day basis – of running a household, raising children, working whilst trying to maintain a relationship with a spouse and the ever looming responsibility of caring for the elderly – be they family or members of the community. Add to these pressures the disappearance of a child and you have a pressure cooker whistling away about to explode – and explode it does.


The plot focusses on a before she went missing and after she went missing theme. The love that the mother has for her children is declared loud and strong but the kids don’t seem to realise it…teenagers…a difficult stage. The signs that the mother did not see are poignant and so real – as parents we try to balance between allowing our children responsibility and to develop independence yet are tasked with keeping them safe whilst wearing a blind fold called trust.


Guilt is a major theme in this complex narrative.


The early pacing is a little slow for my taste and I was rather irritated that the mother, the protagonist in this narrative was constantly, and I mean constantly, berating herself or being berated by her family for her decision to work or for spending any time on her own interests. The father does not get dealt with in the same manner yet his is often away from the home, working long hours, on call, at conferences etc. he cannot change his routine for anything…even when his daughter disappears, he is too important. Very irritating – especially when you consider the author herself is a GP, a writer, a mother of 5 and a spouse and yet she I feel she weighs her protagonist with a bucket full of guilt she doesn’t deserve – a guilt for having a life and helping to provide for her family. Rant over.


A great debut with a wicked twist in the end you will not see coming.







Post Script: Dying For Christmas – Tammy (Tamar) Cohen

Book a physio before you start reading – the tension in this book lodged in my shoulders…what a read!

Dying For Christmas

Tammy Cohen

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Black Swan

ISBN: 9781784160173




I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out …


But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?


About The Author:

Tammy Cohen (who was previously published under her formal name Tamar Cohen) is a freelance journalist. A late starter to fiction – and to other things besides – she has now written four novels: The Mistress’s Revenge, The War of the Wives, Someone Else’s Wedding, and The Broken. Now embarking on psychological suspense, Dying for Christmas is her first Yuletide chiller to be published October 2014. She is a Writer in Residence at Kingston University and lives in North London with her partner and three (nearly) grown children, plus one very badly behaved dog. Follow her on Twitter @MsTamarCohen



My View:

Tammy (Tamar) Cohen creates an atmosphere and tension that is palpable. She foretells the potential crime in those beginning lines “Chances are, by the time you finish reading this, I’ll be dead.” And the tension just ratchets from there on. The first half of the narrative kept me reading and reading into the night. Just before midnight I went to bed only to get up a few hours later (I couldn’t sleep with this unfinished). Three in the morning I stumbled back to bed…very satisfied with this read.


The cover image belies the secrets and lies within the covers; this is not some cutesy Christmas read with all things happy and bright. In fact is it dark, it is twisted and there are so many truths later revealed as fiction that you will not believe where this leads to. Admittedly about midway I had to park my disbelief at the door, such were the number of twists and turns and misdirection’s this narrative took me on but it was worth the parking ticket. Tension, tension and tension abide in this remarkable read. Merry Christmas.



Post Script: One Kick – Chelsea Cain

Echoes of Stockholm Syndrome in an action packed narrative.

One Kick (Kick Lannigan, #1)

One Kick

Chelsea Cain

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781476749785



Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…


My View:


It took me a little while to engage with the protagonist and the narrative – I found the first chapters spoilt by the over the over the top G I Joe action figure known as Bishop who features in this narrative and for a while I was a little confused thinking I was reading a “cosy” mystery rather than the mystery/thriller I was expecting – but only for a little while – then the action started and I was in no doubt what sort of read I was in for –a fast paced, tension filled, explosive narrative with a strong female protagonist who has a gut wrenching personal story of abuse.

Kick Lannigan’s life story is very much a contemporary head lining grabbing example of what we are currently reading so much about in social media today – child abduction, where the victim is missing for many year before escaping or being found. This book will no doubt create much debate and discussion and will be a perfect read for book clubs or individual fans of crime fiction.