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The Girl Who Was Taken

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A chilling thriller where nothing is at it seems and each reveal is more shocking than the last…right up to the jaw-dropping final twist.

Two abducted girls—one who returns, one who doesn't.

The night they go missing, high school seniors Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are at a beach party in their small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. Police launch a massive search, but hope is almost lost--until Megan escapes from a bunker deep in the woods...A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has made Megan a celebrity. It's a triumphant story, except for one inconvenient Nicole is still missing.

Nicole's older sister, Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole's body will be found and her sister's fate determined. Instead, the first clue comes from another body--that of a young man connected to Nicole's past. Livia reaches out to Megan to learn more about that fateful night. Other girls have disappeared, and she's increasingly sure the cases are connected.

Megan knows more than she revealed in her book. Flashes of memory are pointing to something more monstrous than she described. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you've been looking for...

340 pages, Hardcover

First published April 25, 2017

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About the author

Charlie Donlea

15 books3,454 followers
Charlie Donlea is the USA TODAY and #1 Internationally bestselling author of SUMMIT LAKE, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, DON'T BELIEVE IT, SOME CHOOSE DARKNESS, THE SUICIDE HOUSE, and TWENTY YEARS LATER. His new thriller, THOSE EMPTY EYES, will be released in April 2023.

His books have been translated into twenty languages across nearly forty countries. He resides in Chicago with his wife and two children.

He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane. These majestic trips to “God’s Country” inspired the setting for his first novel, Summit Lake.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,215 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,480 reviews79k followers
April 11, 2017
Some fellow reviewers and I first stumbled across Charlie Donlea at the beginning of 2016; we all scrambled for a NetGalley copy of his debut novel Summit Lake after reading several rave reviews on Goodreads. When you've been writing reviews for awhile, you start to come across a good number of first time authors and their writing can be a bit rough; not so here. We all raved and cheered on Summit Lake and kept his name logged in our thoughts in hopes of a new book being published in 2017, and here it is. While I was very impressed with his first book, this was fantastic! The amount of growth the author has shown between Summit Lake and The Girl Who Was Taken is outstanding, which is what you want as a writer AND a reader. While the pacing and flow had a similar feel to Summit Lake, this new book was so remarkably different I felt like I was picking up something completely new and fresh, as opposed to another carbon copy story with names and settings changed.

"A life might end, but sometimes their case lives forever."
-Gerald Colt, MD

I have a lot to say about this one, but I'll try to hold back from any dead giveaways or spoilers. *Insert typical Chelsea observation of stunningly gorgeous cover in her favorite hues of blue* I love how this story was broken up; we have a jumping timeline between past and present, but it wasn't difficult to follow at any point. Our main plot line is present day, which is after the abduction of Nicole and Megan/Megan's escape told mostly through Nicole's older sister Livia's life; the past is slowly filling us in on the events leading up to the abduction, mainly through what Nicole experienced. This is a shorter read, as there are lots of brief chapters and "parts" to break up the process and keep you on your toes. For the first half of the book it's more of a slow burner; this is where I felt that procedural style of writing was portrayed, although it isn't from the police's POV, but a medical examiner's. This brought a completely unique set of eyes to the table, as I've never read a book from that view before, and I really enjoyed it. I've always felt, while reading crime fiction and police procedurals, that I would enjoy seeing more of what is entailed in the examiner's job past just the brief glimpse of an autopsy that is usually included. This gave us that view and so much more. The flashbacks, being told from Nicole's POV gave us more of a YA approach, but not in a ditzy, clumsy way. I can't explain how, but this book gave me a feeling that defied genre barriers; it had all the elements of a suspenseful mystery, but with its bold casting of a different kind of procedure and a widely varied cast, it felt different than anything I've picked up yet.

"I know who took me."
-Megan McDonald

Once I hit that point, my pulse was racing and I had to know if my detective work had paid off in a solid solving of the case. NEWS FLASH-it hadn't. There are plenty of bread crumbs left to point you in the direction of red herrings; I think I underestimated this one because there are a few "easy solves" laid out in front of you to keep you thinking you know how this story will go. I took the bait and fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I did notice upon finishing the book, however, that there were plenty of clues that were visably laid out that I chose to ignore. If you pay close enough attention, you may pick up on them and solve this one. If not, enjoy the exciting twist and buckle up baby. I also really appreciated that not everything was tied up so neatly in the end; things were left a little raw which gave a better sense of realism in how a similar situation might be played out. Overall, this was a fabulous mystery; it isn't one to be rushed through, but savored, as it has some really rich elements that layer upon each other to create a multi-dimensional story.

I would highly recommend this to fans of Summit Lake, but also to mystery and suspense fans in general who like a good whodunnit. Again, this was not a thriller with break neck pacing to be devoured, but a steady, intriguing mystery with many clues placed along the way if the reader pays close enough attention. I was so incredibly pleased with this novel and I can't wait to find out where the author chooses to take us next! *Maybe we'll get lucky with another blue cover?*

*Many thanks to the author and publisher for sending me an early copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here on the blog!
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews25.1k followers
May 15, 2018
*3.5-ish stars*

This book took a while to warm up, and although some of it wasn't deeply compelling, it was interesting enough to hold my attention. Then, finally, just when everything begins to boil—feces hitting the fan, bodies literally crawling out of the creepy-ass woodwork—it ends.

And I shake my e-copy because surely there’s another page.

But *Swipe* *Swipe*… Nothing.

Fine, so there are supposed to be more books in the works, I get it, and I assume this ending did what it set out to do. I’m a huge fan of being left wanting more, but there is such a thing as *too abrupt*—where even one more sentence would suffice. However, I do prefer this type of finish to anything overkill.

This story is delivered through a 3rd person narrative and the plot swings randomly in and out of past and present settings, offering up close and personal focus on multiple characters.

There are some holes, along with situations that I felt were added in haste and used as props to divert the reader’s attention. These areas sort of weakened the story and left me confused more than anything else.

The heart of this plot, however, is strong and deranged—examining characters who harbor a seriously sickening fetish. Their particular “obsession” was new to anything I’ve come across in fiction, and although it made me downright nauseous, it certainly offered an interesting glimpse into such a lifestyle.

Megan, in my opinion, was the most developed and interesting persona, and I really enjoyed her parts of the story.

Livia, the sister of another girl gone missing, turns this story into something unique as she performs her detailed and gruesome autopsies, knowing that at any moment the unzipping of a body bag could possibly reveal her sister.

The forensics element is surprisingly technical and elaborate, and sometimes feels out of place in the story, but my eternal love for anything forensics made this work.

Although fairly disturbing, this storyline is quite original, and I do believe some tidying up would really enhance this book’s power. There is a lot happening here, and less would certainly have been more in this case.

~I'd recommend to action-packed, twisted-thriller fans unopposed to a bit of shakiness in a story’s structure

*Advanced copy kindly provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,322 followers
April 9, 2023
5 stars! This was one gripping and addictive crazy ride!

I was glued to the pages of this story and could not put this book down! This was such a fantastic read!

I HIGHLY recommend this book if you are in the mood for a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller! It is going on my Favourites list!
Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
656 reviews1,608 followers
May 19, 2022
One got away. What happened to the other?

Livia Cutty, a fellow in forensic examination, can’t help feeling like one day she will be performing an autopsy on someone just like her sister, Nicole, who went missing 14 months prior. Nicole and her high school classmate, Megan McDonald, both disappeared one night at a beach party, launching a massive search. Two weeks later, Megan escaped…but had no idea what happened to Nicole.

In the present day, Megan is a bit of a celebrity, after writing and releasing a memoir about her ordeal. It’s quickly climbing the charts.

One day, Livia examines the body of a male found in the river. She has no idea that this body ties in with her missing sister, Nicole. Once she does, she enlists Megan to figure out what exactly happened the night they disappeared.

Livia will do anything to find Nicole. As Megan starts remembering more of her ordeal, they realize this story might be more sinister and less isolated than they originally thought.

This is the second Charlie Donlea book I’ve read, and I really need to go and read the rest. He knows how to grip readers with smooth writing and atmospheric descriptions from page 1. He sprinkles in PLENTY of suspects and scenarios, and I have to say I quite enjoyed trying to guess who did what. I found it pretty unpredictable and gripping.

One minor quip I had was Megan’s dialogue. I found it very cheesy as she over-explained everything with many pauses thrown in. It was a bit exasperating.

Overall, this is another solid thriller that has already had plenty of love from the book community. Definitely an author and book I’d recommend.

Thank you to Pinnacle and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Now available.

Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
383 reviews1,768 followers
September 20, 2017

Megan McDonald and Nicole Cutty both disappear from a beach party in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

Nicole counted the days and thought she was missing for twelve or thirteen days. Stuck in a cellar where her captor stowed her. When she escaped a driver found her and said "Good God, the whole state has been looking for you. Where's your friend" he asked. Megan looked at him and asked "Who". " Nicole Cutty " he says, "The other girl who was taken. "

Livia was Nicole's sister. She always was hoping that possibly a jogger somewhere might stumble over a shallow grave and find the remains of her sister. Every time a Jane Doe rolled into the morgue, Livia wondered if it was Nicole.
Livia wished she took the call from her sister that night. She held the phone while it rang but decided not to answer it because she didn't want the drama. It was midnight on a Saturday night before Nicole was missing. She felt so guilty and spent her time looking for her sister.

They found another body of a guy they thought jumped from a bridge but found out he didn't jump. His body was found floating in the bay. Someone hit him with their car and drilled him in the head or something, then dropped him in the bay when they were done with him.

The stories covered Megan's background. Her shining future was known to the world. The reporters loved that such an All American girl had been kidnapped. It made for great reading how such a smart girl had outfoxed her abductor, escaping from the bunker. The entire country fell in love with Megan McDonald. She was the girl who made it home. Megan became a star. That Nicole Cutter was part of the story was only news initially. That Nicole's car was found down the road from the beach party where both the girls had gone missing was only news worthy until Megan McDonald resurfaced.

Other girls were found missing too and the hunt was on to find these girls and their abductor.

I ended up loving this book. I just wish it was more gripping. I loved the twist towards the end. It was a little slow in parts for me. I kept guessing and guessing who the abductor was and I was so shocked when I found out who it was. I would of never of guessed it. I thought I had it figured out but I was so wrong. This book was not predictable to me at all. I really loved the ending and it was definitely a 5 star ending. The last page of the book sort of stumped me. I wonder if this might be a series. Wouldn't that be nice!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
July 25, 2017
Traveling Sisters Review by Norma, Brenda, Kaceey and Lindsay!

Two girls taken, one returns.  

THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by CHARLIE DONLEA is an extremely gripping, haunting, and perfectly paced suspenseful psychological thriller that had us all totally engaged, entertained, and interested throughout this whole book.  Having Lindsay right away racing through the pages unable to put it down with Norma right behind her. Although, the pace was a little slow in the beginning for Norma and Kaceey it didn’t last for long because as the tension and suspense grew stronger with every chapter it moved into a fast-paced and thrilling read!

CHARLIE DONLEA delivers a well-done, solid, and fantastic story here with a well-rounded cast of characters that were believable to this story even though it’s a disturbing and bizarre storyline. The characters personalities are well-crafted and well-developed having us believing in the characters perspectives which added layers and suspense to the storyline.  We see the perspectives of the abductor which adds more tension to the story, the girls who were abducted, the police and mostly we follow along with determined and resourceful Livia who is driven by guilt as she uncovers the truth about what happened to her sister Nicole. The past and future timelines were easy to follow along which kept the story very intriguing.

The medical aspect of this story from Livia’s point of view was extremely interesting, especially for Lindsay, right from the start which was both fascinating, disturbing, and frightening.

CHARLIE DONLEA does an absolutely fantastic job at throwing our suspicions all over the place with the many twists and turns, suspicious characters, and clues that had us running around in circles trying to get to the bottom of this nail biting case and Kaceey silently screaming through her messages that weren’t all that silent on her side as we were learning the truth of this story!  
To sum it all up it was a riveting, enjoyable, suspenseful, fast-paced, quick and easy read with an intense, heart pounding, and the best ending we have ever read yet!  It wasn’t wrapped up quickly, neatly with a bow, or everyone lives happily ever after it just left us wanting more. Perhaps there is another book in the future? Highly recommend!  

All of our Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our Sister Blog:
Profile Image for Linda.
1,286 reviews1,328 followers
March 25, 2017
Forensics don't lie even though people do.

And lightning seems to strike quite often in the same locale.

Charlie Donlea is back with another thriller here. The characters within find themselves oddly connected by the eerie strand of a missing loved one. No clues. Just gone.

But one unfortunate victim, Megan McDonald, has slipped from the clutches of her captor and run head-long onto a lonely highway. She's been rescued, but her inner being is still tangled up in the horrendous nightmare of those dark days and nights. Sessions with her psychiatrist reveal nothing of substance. What actually happened?

Enter Dr. Livia Cutty, a forensic pathology fellow, whose sister, Nicole, has also been missing. Livia is under the scrutiny of her professor, Dr. Colt, and yet she seems to have a wild gene for bucking the system. Donlea takes us deep into the world of pathology and forensics through the bodies brought into the lab for autopsies. Prepare yourself for very detailed descriptors. The man has done his homework well.

But it's the character of Nicole that adds chinks to this armor. Livia is a powerhouse and Megan displays a rare stamina for getting to the core of her abduction. Nicole is an irritating individual and the high school banter between teen girls was done in overkill. The premise for the storyline expects the reader to buy waterfront property in the Sahara at times. We've seen too many renegade "sisters" and family connections trying to unmask the abductor. Livia should have been a solo act with no emotional strings tied to vengeance.

I enjoyed Charlie Donlea's Summit Lake. He's growing well as an author. I upped this one to 4 stars for that very reason. And the ending? Let's just say that this sandwich was cut off in mid-bite. Expect another round with Livia in the future. Here's hoping there's plenty of crust on that bread.

I received a copy of The Girl Who Was Taken through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Kensington Publishers and to Charlie Donlea for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Christine.
596 reviews1,180 followers
March 11, 2017
4.5 stars

Having enjoyed Mr. Donlea’s first novel, Summit Lake, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read an advanced copy of his second book, The Girl Who Was Taken. Readers who are sick of books with “Girl” in the title should take heed NOT to dismiss this novel because of its title. It’s a winner.

The story takes place in one of my favorite states, North Carolina. The protagonist is Livia Cutty, a fellow in pathology, studying to be a medical examiner. Great name for someone who does autopsies, don’t you think? Young women have disappeared, including Livia’s sister Nicole. Though Livia holds little hope that Nicole is still alive, she needs to know what happened to her sister for any sense of closure. The case is essentially cold so Livia starts a thoughtful investigation on her own when a homicide victim with potential ties to Nicole lands on her autopsy table.


-I loved everything about Livia. She is smart, compassionate, dogged, independent and real. I hope Mr. Donlea considers developing a series for her.

-The story flips from one time frame to another. Some may think it’s too much, but I found it easy to follow and the story I think benefits from being told in this manner.

-Short snappy chapters keep the reader moving and prevent the reader from being away too long from each time period, thus minimizing the break in the flow.

-The storyline is terrific. There are lots of interesting characters involved and tons of fodder for Mr. Donlea to lead or mislead the reader. There is nail-biting suspense towards the finale and the ending is a crackerjack! I was blindsided although in retrospect the clues were there for me to figure it out. I just wasn’t smart enough. Kudos, Mr. Donlea!

-The very last sentence.

-Oh, and I loved the detail provided about the ins and outs of autopsies.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH (all minor issues that together lost the book ½ star):

-Like Kelsey, the investigative reporter in Summit Lake, Livia, the medical examiner in–training attained access to a lot of information that I’m not sure could have been accomplished in “real life.” I considered being outraged, but elected to simply suspend belief and enjoy the story.

-In the beginning, I was getting a bit tired of Nicole’s acting out. Yes, she had a good reason to be like that, and it was probably necessary for the setup, but I was getting restless for the story to move on.

-I wished the author had done a little more with the setting. North Carolina is one of the most beautiful states in the country what with its mountains and shorelines.

-The very last sentence. Yes, I liked it and I disliked it. I liked it as it may portend a sequel. I didn’t like it as it left me to think for myself what it meant, but if that is the case, I have since come to terms with it.

Do I recommend The Girl Who Was Taken? Oh yes, I certainly do. This book is for all fans of intrigue and a mind-bending plot. There should be a genre called “intrigue.” This book is full of intrigue. Go for it!

I would like to thank Kensington Books, Net Galley, and Mr. Charlie Donlea for an advanced copy of this novel. My opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews690 followers
April 8, 2017
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

A secret cult of those whose imaginations are completely taken with kidnappings is abuzz with a recent rash of missing girls. These people are obsessed. They meet to study, read, discuss, and even reenact possible scenarios that have resulted in abductions. The point is made that the act of kidnapping is that of stealing a person. Never thought of it in that way, but that is exactly what it is.

The underpinnings of the art of forensic science are in full array here. The post-mortems and ride-alongs are fascinating. I realize there are two schools of thought regarding the ending. I liked the rather abrupt curtain drop. A very good read!
Profile Image for Sue.
1,346 reviews5 followers
May 26, 2017
THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by bestselling author Charlie Donlea is a well-written mystery crime suspense thriller that is another winner. I was very impressed with his debut novel, “Summit Lake, that I jumped at the chance to read his new novel.

Charlie Donlea, is a suspense novel, riddled with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls—one who returns, one who doesn’t—and the forensics expert searching for answers.

“Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.”

After her horrific ordeal, Megan, American girl, daughter of a sheriff, abducted in the summer of 2016, has released her book, “Missing” to tell the story of her abduction and escape. But Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan is suffering from flashbacks…and not everything is as was revealed in her book. Memory is coming back and with that comes a darker side.

The timeline jumps between past and present, but easy to follow.

This was a fast-paced mystery whodunit plot that keeps you guessing until the end. The characters were engaging, and it was enjoyable to have the POV from a medical examiner's perspective. And lots of red herrings to throw you off the course. Clues are relayed on a need-to-know basis.

Can you solve this mystery? I didn’t but maybe I wasn’t concentrating enough on all the clues as they were reported.

Many thanks to Mr. Charlie Donlea, Kensington Books, and Net Galley, for an advanced copy of this novel.

Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,126 reviews3,709 followers
July 22, 2017
A thrilling traveling sister read with all my Canadian sisters Norma, Brenda and Lindsay!

Starting out as a slow paced thriller, this read absolutely launched into breakneck speed for the final 30%. I was flipping pages fast and furiously while texting back and forth with Brenda! (Norma and Lindsay had finished few hours earlier - with their own texting frenzy). I was absolutely exhausted by the end!!

I went into this book blind, not sure what to expect. Wasn't even sure I was going to really like it. Boy, did that change in a hurry! There are so many dangling clues that I couldn't help but suspect every character at any point along the way! I always love a thriller that keeps me guessing right up to the end!

For our full traveling sister review please visit Norma and Brenda's fantastic book blog:
Profile Image for Dash fan .
1,467 reviews718 followers
April 26, 2017
4.5☆  Gripping thriller

This is my first book by Charlie, and it didn't disappoint!

Megan and Nicole attend a party...neither return home... what happened to them both remain a mystery!

Until Megan returns! She miraculously finds her way home from a mysterious bunker deep into the wood.
What happened to Nicole??  She was never found. After police searches. No evidence.

Fast forward one year and Megan cashes in on her disappearance by writing a book, making her famous.

As time goes on we discover another body has been discovered, could there be a link to Nicole's disappearance?

Nicole's sister Livia works in forensics pathology and she is determined not to give up on her sister.
When she uncovers another body on her autopsy table,she believes there is a link. She goes to Megan for help. She is desperate to uncover the truth and what really happened to them both that night.

We see Megan going to therapy in the hope to unlock memories to help herself and Livia, uncover the truth.

Livia was such a strong lead character. She was determined and very likeable. I really felt for her. The unknown was awful for her.
Megan although not exactly much help was a good character. She tries her best to help Livia which was very brave.
Nicole for me was not the best character. But I believe her character was not meant to be likeable. She was annoying.

There are twists and turns and nothing is quiet what it seems. For once I didn't predict the kidnapper.
I like the short chapters and the glimpses into the past to uncover the truth.

A gripping read, some very descriptive autopsies, and a nail biting race to uncover the truth.
Definetly recommend to readers who love intrigue, mystery and page turning thrillers.

I received this book from the Publisher in exchange for a honest and fair review via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Meredith (Trying to catch up!).
814 reviews12.7k followers
May 3, 2017
Finally getting around to posting my review--not sure what has taken me so long, as I really enjoyed The Girl Who Was Taken . While The Girl Who Was Taken moves at a slow pace in the beginning, the tension grows and evolves into a fast-paced, thrilling read with a surprising twist that I didn’t see coming!

This is a story about two girls who are abducted in Emerson, North Carolina. High school seniors, Nic Cutty and Megan McDonald have been abducted. Megan escapes her captors and becomes a national hero, while Nic’s case goes unresolved. Nic’s sister Liv, a forensic pathology fellow, uses her skills to slowly begin to unravel the clues that leads her to discover the twisted details behind the girls’ abductions.

Similar to Summit Lake, the narrative switches between alternating POV’s and timelines.
I was surprised by the reveal, as I got taken in by some of the “clues.” The ending left me hanging, but hopefully will be resolved in the next book. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
July 28, 2020
Traveling Sister Read.

THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by CHARLIE DONLEA is a gripping, original, haunting, and perfectly paced suspenseful psychological thriller that had us all totally engaged, entertained, and turning the pages as fast as we could. The pace starts off slow in the beginning, and then the tension and suspense grew stronger with every chapter making it a fast-paced and thrilling read!

CHARLIE DONLEA delivers a well-done, solid, and fascinating story here with well-rounded characters that are believable, even though it’s a disturbing and bizarre storyline. The character's personalities are well-crafted and well-developed having us believing in the character's perspectives which added layers and suspense to the storyline. We see the perspectives of the abductor which adds more tension to the story, the girls who were abducted, the police and mostly we follow along with determined and resourceful Livia who is driven by guilt as she uncovers the truth about what happened to her sister Nicole. The past and future timelines were easy to follow along which kept the story very intriguing.

The medical aspect of this story from Livia’s point of view was extremely interesting, especially for Lindsay, right from the start which was both fascinating, disturbing, and frightening.

CHARLIE DONLEA does an absolutely fantastic job at throwing our suspicions all over the place with the many twists and turns, suspicious characters, and clues that had us running around in circles trying to get to the bottom of this nail-biting case.

To sum it all up it was a riveting, enjoyable, suspenseful, fast-paced, quick and easy read with an intense, heart-pounding, and the best ending we have ever read yet! Highly recommend!

Profile Image for Jayme.
1,189 reviews2,250 followers
January 9, 2021
This was the author’s sophomore effort, but I didn’t discover his work till book #3, and I had been wanting to read the two I missed for quite some time!

I finally found the time to do so, over the past couple of months.

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are two high school seniors from the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina, who both disappear from an annual end of the season beach party, one summer night.

One returns. One Does Not.

The country is transfixed, not by the girl who is still missing, but by the one who made it home-Megan-who has now published a best-selling book about her ordeal.

But, she is struggling to remember exactly what happened.

Nicole’s older sister, Livia is now a fellow in forensic pathology and she hasn’t forgotten her sister, even as the news cycle has moved on. She expects that one day her sister’s body could end up on her table-begging for the story of what happened to her to be told.

But what she didn’t expect was to receive a clue about her sister’s disappearance from another body that ends up in her morgue.

The story alternates between the past (the rivalry between the girls the year leading up to the night that they disappear) and the Present-Livia’s search for more clues, and Megan’s pursuit of the truth using hypnotherapy.

Charlie Donlea appears to have done his homework on forensic pathology, and I enjoyed Livia’s chapters in the PRESENT the most as she discovers things about her younger sister that she never knew.

I didn’t enjoy the PAST chapters quite as much, as I don’t enjoy time spent with high school age characters and the things that they all do when they are that age.

So enjoyment wise, this book fell in the middle for me, with “Don’t Believe It” and “Summit Lake” being MY personal favorites, from this author …

He ALWAYS writes an engaging, suspenseful tale, where subtle clues are revealed as the story progresses, if you are astute enough to pick up on them.

There is always a plausible twist that you won’t see coming.

AND, everyone seems like a possible suspect at one point or another.
I wonder if Mr. Donlea even knows who he will choose, as he is writing...🤔

I now await new work, since I am all caught up!
I hope I won’t have to wait long…

A great buddy read and discussion with DeAnn!
Profile Image for Sandysbookaday .
2,048 reviews2,103 followers
May 12, 2017
This is the second book I have read by Charles Donlea and one I was looking forward to greatly. Mr Donlea did not disappoint.

This is a book which starts out slowly and increases in tension as it progresses. Donlea's characterisation and understanding of family and friendship dynamics is superb. I'm sure we have all known a girl like Nicole at some point in our lives.

The Girl Who Was Taken is told over several different time lines and from several different points of view, but without any confusion. Mr Donlea has done a sterling job with this.

So why only 4 stars?

But this one little niggle aside, I enjoyed The Girl Who Was Taken and look forward to more from Mr Donlea.

Thank you to Kensington Publishers via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Girl Who Was Taken by Charles Donlea for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Profile Image for Jan.
424 reviews256 followers
March 17, 2017
This is a solid mystery that I enjoyed even more than this author's debut novel Summit Lake. Told from different POV's and varying timelines, I found this writing style really helped to create the suspense that made the last 100 pages a complete nail biter for me.

The main protagonist is Livia Cutty-a fellow in forensic pathology, fueled by the disappearance of her younger sister Nicole. It's been over a year since she disappeared from an end of summer beach party, along with a fellow classmate Megan McDonald. Nicole called her cell phone that night, and it's Livia's biggest regret that she ignored this call, not wanting to get involved in Nicole's late night drama.

When the body of a young man found floating in the water ends up on her table, Livia discovers a possible connection to her sister in the unlikeliest of ways. This is the spark that builds and pushes Livia to start digging for more answers on what happened the night her sister was taken. She reaches out for help from another unlikely source-Megan, who managed to escape after 2 weeks of captivity.

While I really liked Livia's character, I felt that she read like an established career woman already in her mid thirties, not someone in her mid twenties. She was too calm, too wise, and I felt a bit too emotionally detached to have been so successful in her detective work right from the start. Part of that could come from the ease in which she was given access to medical records or was able to get people to give up secrets so easily. This seemed to be a bit of a stretch for me.
There were a couple of other side plots I would have liked more information or closure on as well.

Outside of this, I really found myself immersed in the mystery, trying different characters on for size as the antagonist, and was happy to have been mislead many times over. I felt the forensic research done to give Livia the credibility needed to lead this story was also well done. I am by no means an expert in this field, but the details felt credible. (Maybe a bit heavy handed with the smells of death throughout)

I highly recommend this to all mystery lovers, you won't be disappointed!

ARC provided by NetGalley
Profile Image for Liz.
2,140 reviews2,756 followers
July 13, 2018

This audiobook grabbed me from the get go. You initially hear from both of the girls that have gone missing, only one of whom returns. Then the attention shifts to Livia, the older sister of the girl that never returned. She’s a medical examiner intern and the scenes in the ME’s offices tend to the graphic side. It’s a very unique approach. Yes, there have been other books from a ME’s perspective. But the fact that she’s an intern and we’re learning right along with her worked well. I also liked that Donlea doesn’t “write down” to his readers. He uses medical jargon and biological terms without explanation.

As the book went on, I found myself more drawn to Livia’s sections. The historical sections are good and needed to move the plot along, but I just really related to her.

This is a well paced book. You move back and forth in time and between the different characters’ POVs, with frequent revelations. It’s not what I would call fast paced, but it kept my interest throughout. I have to laugh, I was convinced I knew who the murderer was but I was so wrong!

I will definitely check out other works by this author.

I listened to this book and the narrator, Nina Alvamar, was good, but nothing special.

Profile Image for Jean.
754 reviews20 followers
March 10, 2017
Two high school seniors. Two girls gone missing. Only one returns. After reading Charlie Donlea’s Summit Lake featuring investigative reporter Kelsey Castle, I was excited to receive a copy of Donlea’s new book,The Girl Who Was Taken. The bad news is that Castle does not appear in this thriller. The good news is that this work is even better.

I was abducted and held captive by this tale of missing young women from the very first chapter. Even though one of the missing teens, Nicole Cutty, is rebellious and obnoxious in the way she seeks attention, I was hooked on learning what happened to her. Her classmate, Megan McDonald, was almost her polar opposite – popular, dedicated to helping others, respectful. She was the one who got away. She wrote a book, and with the help of a therapist, she was attempting to put her life back together. The contrast between the two girls personalities and their stories throughout the book was seductive. Once friends, they were estranged by the time they reached high school, and this conflict is just one of the tensions – at least on Nicole’s side – as the scene is set.

My favorite parts, though, were those involving Livia, Nicole’s older sister. She’s a forensic pathology fellow who becomes deeply enmeshed in the mystery of the girls’ abductions when a body turns up on her autopsy tabled that raises questions about her sister’s disappearance. Are other cases possibly related? Livia embarks on her own investigation and gains an unlikely ally – Megan McDonald. Does Livia find out what happened to Nicole? Could she possibly be alive?

The chapters featuring Livia were the ones I particularly liked – the autopsies and the ride-alongs lent authenticity to the character. I have a little background in medical terminology, but I won’t pretend to know what a real post-mortem is like. Still, there was enough information there that seemed authentic enough for me to know that Mr. Donlea did his research. I will say that the author stretched things a bit by having Dr. Cutty (Livia) do a bit too much on her own, not in a professional capacity and not going through proper channels. We also get to sit in on Megan’s therapy sessions. This had me feeling somewhat like a voyeur – and holding my breath at times as I waited to hear what she would reveal.

As the narrative zigs and zags from months before the abduction to the present and back and forth until we finally get to the abduction itself; the tension rises and falls, but I never felt bored. Nor did I feel impatient. There was a point where I was shocked to suddenly realize that I “knew” who the killer was. Then, in the very next chapter, I decided that it could possibly be someone else. Ultimately, I was wrong on both counts. I actually love when that happens! The real question is does Megan find the answers she needs so that she can move forward with her life? And what happened to Nicole?

The Girl Who Was Taken has its disturbing moments, to be sure. I might even suggest that it requires a little bit of suspended belief. It is fiction, after all. To those who, like me, are skeptical of books with “Girl” in the title, I would encourage you to avoid that voice in your head that whispers, “Don’t do it.” I say, “Do it.” You won’t be sorry. My thanks to NetGalley, Kensington Books, and the author. My opinion is my own.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Diana | Book of Secrets.
797 reviews596 followers
June 20, 2017
I enjoyed reading Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE, last year, and I’m thrilled to say that his second book, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, exceeded my expectations. It’s suspenseful, twisty, and chilling, which all together make for a riveting read.

Two young women were abducted the summer after their high school graduation. Megan escapes after two weeks, but Nicole is still missing a year later. What became of Nicole? Her older sister Livia is haunted by that question daily. While completing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist, Livia wonders if a clue to her sister’s disappearance will end up on her exam table – and then suddenly, one appears.

I was fascinated by Livia’s job as a medical examiner, though I had to cringe several times! Yep, the autopsy descriptions could be gruesome, but clearly forensic pathology was well researched for this book.

The story jumps around in time, and is told from different POVs. What does Megan know about her time in captivity that her mind has repressed? There’s something dark and terrible in there that’s trying to get out. This was a puzzling and well constructed mystery that tripped me up more than once. The pace got faster as the story progressed, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the pieces were coming together toward the end. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect and haunting and fitting for this harrowing tale.

Second novels can be tricky, but Charlie Donlea knocked this one out of the park. Five big stars!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for "Avonna.
1,200 reviews357 followers
April 26, 2023
Check out all of my reviews at: http://www.avonnalovesgenres.com

I have seriously been blown away by this book. I enjoyed Summit Lake by this author, but this story was even better.

THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea had me tangled up in plot twists and turns that left me completely surprised at the climax of the plot. I knew the answer, no I didn’t. I knew the answer, no I didn’t. I could NOT put this book down!

The majority of the story is told in the present with Livia Cutty, a fellow in forensic pathology wondering if her missing sister will ever appear on her autopsy table and Megan McDonald, the girl who got away, when both Megan and Nicole Cutty disappeared one summer night. Both are searching for the truth of the girls’ disappearance for differing reasons. Their search is intertwined with flashbacks to the months and days before the abduction and the story of Megan and Nicole’s summer after their senior year in high school.

These characters where all realistic and unforgettable. Livia is an intelligent and driven character. Her career is as important to her as her drive to find out what happened to her sister. She does not throw it away, but uses it in her search. I loved her use of kickboxing for stress relief. Megan was not the same girl she was before her abduction and she still doesn’t remember everything from the two weeks she was gone. Mr. Donlea did a great job of showing her before and after and the psychological changes. Nicole was a teen in rebellion and it took so little to tip her over into even darker things. Someone who she thought understood her, changed her whole world in one night.

This was a well written suspense with a plot that keeps you on your toes. This book will definitely be a recommendation read to all my suspense loving friends.
Profile Image for Mary Kubica.
Author 27 books15.6k followers
April 4, 2017
A smart, chilling thriller with an ending I never saw coming. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Brenda.
725 reviews146 followers
September 23, 2017
This was my first time reading Charlie Donlea.

I found this book interesting, but I was not blown away by it. There was some confusion in the beginning as to who was taken when, and I eventually grabbed pen and paper to make notes on characters and dates. Thankfully chapters were labeled with dates and timing. The red herrings were there, as I had two or three possible suspects in mind. Some of the characters were creeps, and I had no sympathy for one of the girls who was taken.

It was a good book with an ambiguous ending that didn't really satisfy me.
Profile Image for Gary.
2,674 reviews376 followers
March 25, 2017
This is my first read of a Charlie Donlea book and I was thoroughly impressed.
The novel is about two abducted girls, one who returns, one who doesn’t.
Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. Nicole is still missing and Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology decides to investigate the evidence and try to uncover the mystery behind her missing sister. Livia asks Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken.
The character Livia is an excellent likeable character and with the aid of a vert good story-line and a suspenseful finale make this book a very good read.

I had never heard of author Charlie Donlea previously but I am well aware of him now and will look out for his other books in the future.

I would like to thank Net Galley and Kensington for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Natalia Luna.
275 reviews138 followers
June 27, 2021
Cuando un libro me atrapa de esta forma me rindo a él y cuando lo acabo busco rápidamente otros libros del autor para leer. Por desgracia aún no han traducido más. Pero están en ello!
Este libro me ha conquistado. Narrado en pasado reciente y presente conocemos la historia de Nicole y Megan, ambas desaparecidas a la vez. Megan escapa de su secuestrador pero de Nicole no hay rastro.
La investigación que por su cuenta inicia Livia, hermana de Nicole, destapa una historia terrorífica que jamás imaginó.
El autor escribe bien, logra que te sumerjas en la trama sin esfuerzo y los personajes tienen alma.
Me debatí entre puntuar con 4 ó 5 estrellas pero creo que merece la máxima puntuación porque al fin y al cabo consiguió que no fuera capaz de dejar de leer. Horas perdidas de sueño, con lo dormilona que soy...
Recomiendo sin duda alguna.
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,242 reviews968 followers
January 9, 2018
Dr. Livia Cutty is a pathologist working under a fellowship with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh, NC. Her decision to follow this area of medicine was driven by her sister’s abduction and disappearance one year ago. Livia doesn’t think Nicole is still alive and fully believes she’ll one day show up on her autopsy table. Another teen, Megan McDonald, was also abducted from the same beach party on the same day but she managed to escape.

To say this story was bizarre is an understatement. Every time I thought I knew the direction it was taking, the path veered, sometimes sharply. It transitions from the past to the present rather seamlessly, providing Megan and Nicole’s narratives leading up to the abductions and Megan and Livia’s in the present. I was able to figure out the culprit but second guessed myself to the end.

It moved a bit slowly after an exciting start but really got in gear about halfway with an ending that moved so fast I could barely keep up. It has a great climax and poignant ending. I really enjoyed the story and especially liked that I learned so much about the world of pathology. This was good storytelling and I’m looking forward to more from this author. Highly recommend this book.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews540 followers
August 22, 2017
Any fan of Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a fictional character of Patricia Cornwell, will jump for joy. We've got a new young doctor on the block and she ain't taking prisoners! Uh wait, she actually does.

As a psychological suspense thriller, combined with a murder mystery, life cannot get any better for this genre-aficionados. I'm one of them.

I haven't read a murder mystery lately in which the author manages to completely vanish and leave only the characters and the reader to face each other. This book actually had me constantly grab my decaf latté, jump right up on my bed, answer the phone in complete bewilderment and talk to people with glazed over eyes. I was simply a goner to this world. And I simply could not stop! In between my hands were actually nervously shaking. Caution: unputdownable!

The blurb says it all. Two girls disappear, only one, with suppressed memories return. Dr. Livia Cutty, a fellow in forensic pathology, is the sister of Nicole who disappeared with Megan Macdonald. While Megan becomes a national celebrity, Nicole is still missing.

When the corpse of a young man lands on Livia's table for a post mortem, a grizzly tale is about to begin.

The story is sad and dark, but written without horror as the main focus. This is not a sadistic fix for those who crave it. The story is spellbinding, gripping, realistic and absolutely believable.

I don't know if Dr. Livia Cutty will appear again in this author's work, since this is my first encounter with his work, but I do know that I enjoyed meeting her. Every character in the book served a purpose. Yes, I was a deceived. I simply was so totally on the wrong track in flashing out the criminal. That was a bonus!

I never thought a murder mystery would pull me out of my own little world and change my mood completely to happy and exciting! But it did. I needed this.

So yes, five stars it is.
Profile Image for  Li'l Owl.
398 reviews238 followers
August 6, 2019
August 20, 2016
During a beach party at end of their senior year of high school in Emerson Bay
Megan McDonald and Nicole Cutty disappeared.
After two weeks of intensive searching they were no closer to finding the girls then they were the night they disappeared. The hope of bringing both Megan and Nicole home safe and sound is fading fast.

Then Megan is found running from a bunker deep in the woods. Bleeding and dehydrated she makes it to the road and is brought to safety by a passing motorist. She has a large amount of a sedative in her system, ketamine, used mostly by veterinarians. Megan's lucky to be alive.

It's been a year since Megan escaped.
Everyone skirts around her, coddles her, suffocates her, treating her as if she could break at any moment. Her psychologist had encouraged her to write a book, insisting that sharing her story will help her "heal." Megan agrees to write it, not for herself, but to appease both her psychologist and her parents, allowing them the illusion that she is "fine" and is "moving forward in life." Her parents want her to be the same girl she was before the abduction. She can't be, though. That's what no one understands.

"People know me as the girl from my book or from the girl before the abduction . I'm neither anymore. "

Her book, "Missing," chronicles the events surrounding Megan's abduction and her escape.
Now her life is full of TV appearances, public events and "survival" stories. She knows that all everyone really wants are the gory details of her experience.

Nicole Cutty, the girl who disappeared that same night, has never been found. Her story has been forgotten.

Livia Cutty, Nicole's older sister, is doing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist. She wants to learn all there is to know about collecting and analyzing evidence in the event that when Nicole's body is found she will have the tools to determine what caused her sisters fate. To bring answers to those who have lost someone.

Livia's next case is a young man who was fished out of the river. It's initially thought that he commited suicide by jumping off the bridge. During the autopsy Livia discovers something that doesn't add up. The injuries the man sustained are not consistent with a jump into the water. She learns that the man's name is Casey Delavan and his death is now a murder investigation. As she reviews the case, Livia uncovers a clue that connects the man to her sister Nicole. Casey Delavan was Nicole's boyfriend at the time she went missing.
The clue also leads her to Megan. Unsure of how Megan will respond to her questions she treads lightly. But Megan embraces the chance to help Livia in her investigation.
Megan just wants to remember the clues that may lead to the location of the bunker because she hasn't forgotten that Nicole Cutty remains missing.
And there's something else that is bothering Megan about her abduction. Something that she desperately wants to remember about her captor. If Megan is finally able to grasp the elusive memory, it might cost her more than she could ever have imagined.

The Girl Who Was Taken is at twisty, hair-raising, heart-pounding, creepy audiobook that I couldn't stop listening to! Author Charlie Donlea wrote a tremendously frightening and crafty twist at the end that I would have never have guessed. This is the first novel/audiobook by this author and I'll be looking for more.
Nina Alvamar did a masterful performance in narrating this novel. Her voice is smooth and clear allowing you to get wrapped up in the frightening allure of the story without any distractions, if that makes any sense. I enjoyed this audiobook very much! Sensational!
Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Lee.
646 reviews98 followers
January 16, 2023
Excellent story about two young girls who are abducted, one returns and the other does not. This book kept my attention throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great characterisation, interesting plot and a story line that was unique to anything I had read before. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lisa.
647 reviews242 followers
August 7, 2018
A riveting story of the abduction of two high school seniors girls — only one returns

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. They both disappear from a beach party one summer night. No clues to the disappearance are found and hope is almost lost, until Megan is finally found, after escaping from a bunker in the woods. A year later the best-selling book of her ordeal has turn Megan from local hero to national celebrity. But Nicole is still missing.

Nicole’s older sister, Livia is a fellow in forensic pathology. She expects that one day soon Nicole‘s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determined her sister’s fate. Instead the first clue of Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia‘s morgue. It’s that of a young man connected to Nicole‘s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing as well and Livia is increasingly certain that the cases are connected. Megan remembers more now than what was revealed in her book. Her memories are coming together and pointing to something dark and menacing.

“The country was transfixed, not by the girl who was gone, but by the one who made it home.”

One of life pleasures is being totally surprised by an unexpectedly good book. This was it. I loved this book. The story was mesmerizing and uniquely well done.

It’s was easy to follow despite a storyline jumping back and forth in time. All the characters were good, but my favorite was Livia, because of her strength and perseverance in finding out what happened to her sister. Crazy as it may sound, I absolutely loved the scenes when she was doing autopsies and coroner ride alongs. They were very well done. I even learned a thing or two about forensic pathology.

Anyone who likes books with a strong women character would like this one. Author Charlie Donlea is a USA Today best selling author who was born and raised and continues to live in Chicago. His other books include Summit Lake (2016) and Don’t Believe It (2018). I listen to the book on Audible and the narrator Nina Alvamar did a superb job with this one.
Publisher Recorded Books
Published April 25, 2017
Narrator Nina Alvamar
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

“You go through life doing all the things everyone else wants you to do, and you’ll wake up one day realizing your life has passed you by and you’ve got a list of stuff you’ve never got to do.”

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