The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen is an action driven story. As with his other books, readers should be aware that this author does not shy away from ghastly issues, fictionalizing them for even more suspense. It is apparent that Laukkanen’s go to subject is the mistreatment of women.
The author noted, “I always find it fascinating to write stories about the alpha male, some who are angry men that feel women owe them something. This anger can turn to violence. But my next book is something completely different. It will be a high seas adventure story. I had a crisis of confidence after I finished this book so I decided to work on other plot lines. Since I paid for my college education by working on fishing boats I decided to use that experience to write a ship story. It is based on the true facts of salvaging ships, and the tugboat teams attempting to get a percentage of the value of the merchandise saved. I am also working on for fun a fictionalized version of my dog Lucy who looks like a lab/pit bull mix. In the story she is a rescue dog who is placed with a former Marine that has PTSD. But I also want to make it clear I am definitely not done with the characters Stevens and Windermere.”
He also told how the idea for this story came to him, “In the Vancouver neighborhood I live in there was this serial killer that preyed on women until 2006. He killed as many as 49 over the course of two decades. The local police were not very sympathetic and did nothing for about twenty years. In walking my dog Lucy we pass a memorial stone for these women and I was inspired to write this story. Since I am really into trains I added that aspect to the plot. This is how I spent quality time with my dad, walking by the trains. I knew a lot of people who tried to jump on trains and lost limbs, so I took it one step farther and had a killer stalking these train surfers.”
In this book readers learn, “you don’t ever surf the trains on the Highline.” Rumor has it that a ghost rider preys on women who will not be missed. Native American girls, prostitutes, runaways, and those forgotten have been going missing on the High Line cross country train for years. Yet, the local police did nothing, many times ignoring the victims. After Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice. They soon find that it is a serial killer, a ghost that seems to disappear into thin air leaving no clues behind, until his big mistake when one victim lives.
Readers should see this book as a two-parter. The first is a “who done it,” while the second piece is the chase. Stevens and Windermere investigate each clue, only to be frustrated that the murderer seems to be one step ahead of them. While on the trail of the killer they also realize that they must find a young girl, Mila, out to avenge the death of her best friend, Ash, one of the victims.
What adds to the intensity of the plot is the weather and forbidden geography. Anyone reading this will feel the cold and isolation. The dead of winter with freezing temperatures and multiple blizzards in the vast wilderness provide obstacles for the protagonists. They are trapped by circumstances that limit them, while the killer chooses another victim.
Laukkanen does see winter as a character. “I started to do a lot of hiking since I live quite close to Montana and Idaho. I am taken by the remoteness. During a period of winter Vancouver was completely cut off because every highway was closed due to snow. I thought how the terrible weather and unforgiving geography would make the plot even more intense.”
The Forgotten Girls is extremely suspenseful. Having multiple narrators adds to the tension as chapters alternate between the heroes and villain’s point of view. Readers will take a ride on these trains as they feel they are also homeless, traveling in the vast territory without any support. The story is fast-paced and action