An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.
A Mother's Worst Nightmare
Jamie Brandt swears she isn't a bad mother- sure she was stressed out from not smoking pot that morning, and a little stressed about the rush to get young daughters, Bailey and Kylie to a birthday party; but she isn't a bad mother she attests in Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna.
The novel depicting a small town with a penchant for lower middle class living, and present drug use, Jamie Brandt admits she was crabby with her daughters on the morning of their disappearance as she rushes to get them dressed, to K-Mart to pick up a birthday present, and to a friend's party. Aggravated from the girls arguing in the car, then being detoured by a parade route,and the girls dawdling inside a gas station when she stopped to fill up the tank, Jamie is in no mood for dealing with the girls when she pulls into K-Mart, forbidding them to leave the car as she runs in for a cheap gift and a card. She swears she is only gone a matter of minutes- returning to her car to find both children missing.
Checking other stores in the plaza and having them paged, proves no results and later a camera outside gains footage shows that Bailey and Kylie did get out of the car and stroll around the plaza before appearing to wave and smile at someone they seemed to know and that is the last time the girls have been seen.
Seeking to help, Jamie's aunt hires a former bounty hunter, turned investigator, Alice Vega, who teams with a former cop turned private investigator, Max Caplan.
The more leads Vega and Caplans investigate only open more questions about the types of acquaintances in the drug world Jamie has- only she begins to have a nervous breakdown, feeling people are losing sight of her daughters being the victims and this not being about Jamie's former troubles.
Kylie and Bailey are not the first children to go missing around the area.
Several other girls, young and blonde has disappeared from neighboring towns but there seems to be no connection.
As Vega and Caplan begin to investigate Jamie's ex boyfriend he says that Kylie had come to visit him one day and said that she had missed him. When he was in the car to return her back to her grandparents, she said something about having a secret with a friend named Cole, he tried to get her secret from her but Kylie wouldn't share.
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Vega and Caplan find Cole, a timid ten year old that looked even younger and smaller than Kylie was; who confessed that their secret was a journal that they hid in the tree outside in the yard. The investigators take the journal, skimming for anything that could give clues to the disappearance. Other than finding that Kylie was almost too flirtatious for her age and seemed to have a crush on several boys, they believe that a teenage boy upstairs from Jamie's apartment might match the initials they find written in the journal only to later conclude that this was a reference to a character she liked in a movie.
While still not completely giving up on the idea the girls abduction might have something to do with Jamie's crowd, Vega again looks at the things the missing children of the area have in common and conclude that several had taken dance lessons- so did Kylie.
Focusing the investigation on someone that might have hung around the dance studio, they take time to interview the family of another missing person- this time a young man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had gone missing. When the case began to turn cold, his family felt the media and police had lost interest as he wasn't as marketable as the missing girls, by Caplan and Vega are beginning to wonder if there wasn't something connected to all the disappearances.
A Sick Obsession
Bailey is found after several days as Caplan and Vega piece together there is a connection between the drug crowd, and all the missing children.
Bribed to kidnap Bailey and Kylie, the brother of the missing schizophrenic is promised that his brothers case will be reopened if he abides, and he snatches the girls- Bailey is kept in a cabin tied up with some of the drug addled crowd to keep watch over her until she is saved by Vega figuring out the connection. Only Kylie is not there.
They explain they were only hired to watch over the spare and return Bailey, and that the intended victim was Kylie but the girls happened to be together when they were snatched.
Jamie is hospitalized for a suicide attempt, not knowing now that Bailey is safe and they are reunited. The search continues for Kylie and Caplan and Vega again comb the journal and what they have been told from the kidnappers and target in on the mother of Cole, who confesses her crimes in no time to not only organizing the kidnapping of Jamie Brandt's daughters but to the abductions and deaths of all the missing children in the area.
She feebly explains while her husband is a good man, he confessed to her that he had a sickness when she was pregnant with Cole and the only thing that could tame the lewd desires inside him and keep him from hurting their own children would be if he had another outlet. Taking it upon herself to kidnap other girls to use as a placebo to keep her husband away from molesting Cole, she took advantage of being the piano player at the dance studio as a way to find young girls of a particular age range with similar features to her own daughter and brought them into her house locking them in a bedroom space in the cellar contacting a toddler bed and dressing them in childish nightgowns.
Vega and Caplan are able to get to Kylie while she is still alive, but they are unaware how much she understands of her experience and if she will completely heal from it mentally.
Two Girls Down is a much deeper mystery than what I expected from the book summary I had seen for the novel. The twisted mystery seems something of Gillian Flynn novel and keeps you guessing until the very end.
I was unprepared for how sick and twisted this mysteries outcome would actually be. Two Girls Down is a fast paced page turned that will easily occupy an afternoon.