Pros: Love the quirky and messed-up characters
Cons: Vega’s too-perfect hacker plot device, I mean, colleague
Rating: 4 out of 5
Uncorrected proof provided by publisher for review.
In Louisa Luna’s Two Girls Down, two young sisters, Kylie (10) and Bailey (8) go missing from a car in a parking lot. Mother Jamie Brandt hires private investigator Alice Vega against the wishes of the local police department, and Alice hires local disgraced ex-cop Max “Cap” Caplan. At first she wants him just for his local connections, but gradually he impresses her with his own talent and skill in the private investigations arena. The problem is that his former boss is just looking for a reason to screw with him, and certainly has no interest in sharing information with a couple of PIs. So far there’s little to no hint of what might have happened to the two girls.
Most of the beginning of the book establishes the characters and the relationships between them; it doesn’t involve much forward motion in the mystery of the missing girls. The characters are great–there’s a lot of personality to them. In particular I like Jamie Brandt. She’s “not a bad mother”. She isn’t great, but she isn’t terrible. She’s human. She makes mistakes but she loves her girls. It’s a very realistic portrayal of a family living with the terror of knowing that the longer it takes to find their missing members, the less likely it is the girls will ever be found (or found alive). Similarly, a drug-selling ex-boyfriend of Jamie’s is an interesting character. He eventually yields some clues, but again, he’s just a flawed human, not somebody amazing or terrible.
I do have problems with one character. “The Bastard” is Alice’s hacker friend. We only ever see her online interactions with him and the information he sends her. So there’s very little to build character on, and anything he sends her that propels the plot forward ends up feeling largely like a convenient plot device. Particularly because so often, he is the one to move the plot forward when all else fails.
On the whole I enjoyed Two Girls Down. There’s plenty of mystery, good characters (with that one exception), and excitement at the end.