Jamie Brandt is a single mum, and she is tired. She loves her two young girls, Kylie (10) and Bailey (8), but like so many mothers, she also feels smothered and suffocated, and is in desperate need of space, time, and quiet. For this reason, when tasked with buying a gift from the mall, Jamie decides to leave the girls behind in the car. After all, it will be quicker if she goes alone – the girls will simply bicker and whine, making the process more stressful. She leaves the ignition running and ventures into the mall.
When she returns, however, the car is empty, the girls nowhere to be seen. Jamie begins to panic and search the perimeters. People claim to have seen the girls walking into an ice cream shop, but not re-emerge. The girls seem to have disappeared without a trace, leaving Jamie with a hot, burning ball of guilt and regret in the centre of her chest that swiftly consumes her, searing the very fabric of the life she once knew and loved.
To make matters worse, Jamie is very much alone. The town’s police force, stretched beyond its means due to budget cuts and a growing drug epidemic, can offer only limited assistance. Desperate and willing to do anything to get her girls back, Jamie hires Alice Vega, an unorthodox bounty hunter who specialises in missing children. Not before long the local police learn of Alice’s involvement and despite their own inability to assist with the case, voice disapproval. In an effort to pacify the police, Alice seeks out the help of former police detective Max Caplan, who was disgraced and forced to resign from the force. Eager to put his past behind him and make a new name for himself, Matt agrees to assist with the case.
Together, Alice and Max embark on a cat-and-mouse chase to find the culprit – but their time is limited, and every single moment counts. They have to decide which leads seem promising, and which are likely a dead end; they have to select who to trust, who to suspect, and which locations have more potential than others. With time working against them and their own demons to battle along the way, Alice and Max must ignore the terrifying thought lingering in the back of their minds: that the girls may already be gone forever…
A suspenseful and gripping page-turner, Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna is the ultimate whodunnit thriller – and so much more. Alongside the desperate search for the missing girls, the story spotlights the pressures of motherhood and the unfair expectations society projects onto women. Two Girls Down is also gripping in its emotional exploration of Jamie’s guilt, the burden she must carry as a mother, and the way she is blamed and demonised for the loss of her girls. Her character is astounding, her courage amazing, and as a reader you root for her as she grapples with her pain, loss, and grief. Two Girls Down is an incredibly emotional book, gripping you in the place where all good books take hold and never let go – your heart.
Alice and Max are also mesmerising characters, with interesting pasts and personalities. Similar to Jamie, you can’t help become emotionally invested in their journey, so much so that when I finished the book, I was overcome by a rush of sadness – the feeling of having lost two friends. The book’s ability to grip and thrill you with its nail-biting plot, along with the depth and complexity of its characters, is a testament to Luna’s talent as a writer of consummate power and skill.
If you’re looking for your first un-put-downable read of the year, look no further – Two Girls Down will have you hooked from start to finish, unable to think of anything else (especially those chores that need doing).
About the author:
Louisa Luna is the author of the novels Brave New Girl, Crooked, and Serious As A Heart Attack. She was born and raised in the city of San Francisco and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.