The Girl Who Was Taken

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Pub Date 25 Apr 2017 | Archive Date 28 Apr 2017


Charlie Donlea, one of the most original new voices in suspense, returns with a haunting novel, laden 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.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: 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 knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. 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.


“A gem of a mystery, fast‑paced and suspenseful.” —Catherine Coulter, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Fans of contemporary suspense will enjoy this brisk read.” —Booklist

“An exciting debut, with all the right touches, captivating from the first page to the last. There’s a bright future ahead for this newcomer to the thriller genre—definitely a talent to watch.” —Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

“Donlea keeps readers guessing throughout. The whodunit plot is clever and compelling . . . for fans of nonstop mysteries with a twist.” —Library Journal

“A swift, outstanding debut. Summit Lake engrossed me then knocked me cold. Charlie Donlea is a superb storyteller sure to damage the bestseller lists.” —Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author

“With a soaring pace and teasing plot twists, Charlie Donlea’s debut mystery is like a cool drink of water with a twist of lemon. It’s refreshing to find a book that has such a well-developed plot and excellent writing to back it up.” —BookPage
Charlie Donlea, one of the most original new voices in suspense, returns with a haunting novel, laden with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls—one who returns, one who doesn’t—and the...

Advance Praise

“This tour de force has all the elements of a well-constructed thriller. There are villains to be reckoned with that challenge even the most diligent sleuths. False paths beckon as one body after another surfaces, each one more tempting than the last. Livia’s superior intelligence is put to the test time and again as she pursues a violent killer.”– RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars Top Pick

“Donlea does a fine job…The chase is well worth the read.”– Booklist

“Donlea’s sophomore effort is solid. He effectively tells the story using shifts in time, and…keeps the reader guessing and second-guessing until the end, thanks to an expertly crafted abundance of potential suspects. For fans of medical suspense and forensic thrillers, especially those who like morgue scenes in television crime shows.”– Library Journal

“This tour de force has all the elements of a well-constructed thriller. There are villains to be reckoned with that challenge even the most diligent sleuths. False paths beckon as one body after...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781496701008
PRICE $25.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

Send To Kindle (MOBI)
Download (EPUB)

Average rating from 163 members

Featured Reviews

High school seniors Megan and Nicole disappear from a party sending alarm bells through their small North Carolina town. Police and locals mount an exhaustive search but find no clues and have just about given up hope when Megan stumbles back into town after escaping from a bunker in the woods. A year later, Megan’s story is the subject of a bestselling book and she is lauded a hero. But Nicole has never been found. Nicole’s older sister, Livia, a pathologist is startled when a friend of Nicole’s show up dead and on her autopsy table. More girls have gone missing and Livia wants Megan to help her track down the killer, and hopefully the location of her missing sister. Megan’s memory, meanwhile, is returning, and it’s quite different from the account she gave to the police. Tense, atmospheric and just damn good

Was this review helpful?

An incredible book by this author. Multiple kidnappings and murders. The suspense will have you reading far into the night because you won't want to put it down. Lots of twists and turns with many surprises.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

Oh, this book, this book. I went back and forth and then, back and forth. I just knew who the suspect was. Wrong. Then I just knew who the suspect was again and who was helping the suspect. Wrong. Then I absolutely knew who the suspect was, final answer. Wrong. You would think I would be frustrated. No! I was loving it. So many suspects. Who doesn't love a book that gives you many suspects? Who wants to know who did it right off the bat? This was a great book. The author took us to before the disappearance of Megan and Nicole and what was going on with those two girls. Then to a year after Megan's escape from her captor. At this time, Megan had written a book, became a national celebrity and Nicole was still missing. Nicole's older sister, Livia, meanwhile had become a forensic intern and was still searching for her sister. Scared that any day she would show up on her table, but still anxiously waiting to hear any news. Livia uncovers something from one of the bodies that shows up on her table and links it to Megan's and Nicole's past. Then her and Megan start to work together to find Nicole. Megan still hasn't put all the pieces together. This is when the suspense starts. An outstanding read that I could not put down. Yes, I was guessing up until almost the very end. And . . . yeah, that's all I'm going to tell you. It is worth your time to find out yourself. Huge thanks to Kensington Books for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Was this review helpful?

Great book I highly recommend you read this I throughly enjoyed it

Was this review helpful?

Zipped right through this one, and then dove into Charlie Donlea's previous book, "Summit Lake". I'll say that "The Girl Who Was Taken" was a better book, but "Summit Lake" had a satisfactory ending. I'm assuming that Donlea left the door open and the mystery unresolved so he can crank out a sequel or series. I'm hoping that he'll get it out quickly!

Was this review helpful?
Not set

Great book! Loved the forensics and the main character Livia. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The end is a shocker...

Not set
Was this review helpful?

This is one of those "jst can't put down" books. You know, the kind you read all night and then wear sunglasses at work so no one will notice the bags under your eyes.; a real page turner. It's a solid read full of twists and suspense which is what we all want in a thriller. The characters are well developed and the protagonist is very likable. Much to my dismay however, I never did figure out who was the culprit on my own. I suppose that is what is intended. Please write more like this Charlie Donlea

Was this review helpful?

Megan McDonald and Nicole Cutty, both high school seniors in Emerson Bay, North Carolina, are enjoying the last beach party of the summer when they are both abducted. Two weeks later, Megan escapes and returns home. But what has happened to Nicole…where is she? Fast-forward a year and Megan is a celebrity author after writing a novel about her ordeal. Suffering from survivor’s guilt, Megan is seeing a therapist, who’s helping her handle repressed memories that are coming to light. But those traces of memory seem so sinister and chilling, Megan is afraid of the truth they will reveal. After one year, there’s still no sign of Nicole. It seems she’s been forgotten, but one person who will never forget is her older sister, Livia Cutty, a forensic pathologist in training. The arrival of a man’s decomposed body on Livia’s autopsy table brings speculation about Nicole’s disappearance. Livia approaches Megan for assistance in piecing together Nicole’s life. Megan is agreeable, even though her parents and doctor are not. What Livia uncovers sends her on an investigation seeking information about other missing girls. As she and Megan dig deeper and more facts are uncovered, the truth about the girls’ abductions are so terrible, they are hard to believe. Nothing will be the same for anyone once the final, shocking truth is revealed. <b>Charlie Donlea</b>’s THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN is an absorbing and complex thriller with just the right amount of twists, turns and surprises to keep one guessing until the very end. The intriguing plot was scattered with enough red herrings to make me suspect several of the male characters, yet never figuring out the identity of the villain. Donlea’s keenly structured narrative develops an interesting depth to his characters, and switching chapters between current day and the previous year leading up to the abductions helps to build the intensity of the storyline, as well as the shocking outcome. I especially enjoyed the well-detailed forensic elements in Livia’s storyline, as well as the realistic handling of Megan dealing with survivor’s guilt. With all its technical aspects, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN is scary suspense at its very best. I really liked Donlea’s first novel, SUMMIT LAKE, and put his name on my must-read list. I can honestly say, I enjoyed THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN even more than his first book. And I’m hoping the ending sentence hints at more adventures for Livia Cutty. Don’t miss reading this excellent and intriguing mystery/thriller.

Was this review helpful?

WOW! What a twist this book gives you! Very interesting book- in a good way! As i was reading this, points i forgot what i was reading about because we got so involved in the sisters life, and her job that i actually forgot for a few pages that this was about two missing girls, but other than that one point i found the book to be very intriging and thrilling. I kept having different theories run through my head as to who could have kidnapped these girls- when we finally do find out who the "monster" is- you will literally scream "WHAT?!" out loud! I was so shocked, because i never expected that person. That is the best kind of twist, the one you never see coming, and the ending while sad, also didn't expect but understood how it ended. You have to be paying attention to small details to understand the ending, but once you do its an amazing and empowering ending!!

Was this review helpful?

The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea This is the story of two teenage girls, High School Seniors, (Emerson Bay, North Carolina) erstwhile friends but now somewhat estranged. Megan McDonald is somewhat of a poster girl, doing everything right while Nicole Cutty has changed in many ways and now seeks all the attention. Then, on one night both girls disappear from a beach party. Despite a huge search they can find no sign of the girls. Two weeks elapse and then Megan manages to escape and returns to Emerson Bay. There is still no sign of Nicole. Encouraged by everyone, including her therapist, Megan publishes an account of her ordeal and the book becomes a best seller and catapults Megan into centre stage, a position she hates. She suffers from survivor’s guilt; whilst she is lauded Nicole is forgotten. Meanwhile Nicole’s older sister, Livia pursues her career as a forensic pathologist and dreams of discovering what happened to her sister. The story unfolds in two separate time frames, events before the abduction and events a year later switching between the two. This structure provides a tense mystery with each timeline adding more weight to the tension. As Megan strives to recover more memories of her incarceration her frustration is felt by the reader, but like Megan’s elusive memory the answer is also out of the readers’ reach, although I guessed, I guessed wrong. Livia’s experiences as a student of forensic pathology provide an extra dimension to the plot without detracting from the mystery. This is a chilling thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed and would readily recommend. Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC via my Kindle in return for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I think I found a new favorite author for suspense stories! Last year I read Donlea's dubut novel, Summit Lake, which was very good. The Girl Who Was Taken is even better.

Was this review helpful?

If you like intrigue and suspense, this book is a good one! Very interesting story line and the author keeps you engaged until the very end.

Was this review helpful?

If you are looking for a'Can't Put it Down' thriller, then look no further. This book has everything -missing girls, dead bodies, autopsies, weird happenings and enough red herrings thrown in to make you question every male character. I thought I had the kidnapper figured out a couple of times but was totally wrong. The chapters alternate between present day and the past leading up to the abductions and really helps to build the story to a fast flowing end. I totally recommend it and give it 5*****

Was this review helpful?

This was a great, page turning read! The characters played out well in this story. I liked all the different POV's that were told throughout this story. The ending was a total surprise, did not see that coming! I would highly recommend this book to others!

Was this review helpful?

This is a brilliant story with an avalanche of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing till the very last sentence! The story is beautifully-written and I very much enjoyed the fact it dives right into the mystery which hooked me up straight away. The characters have quite a lovely depth to them. Some are likeable, some are hard to digest. As I kept flipping though the pages, I genuinely didn’t know what to expect anymore as the secrets kept unravelling and the suspense kept building up, swiftly pulling me into a thrilling journey. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, BAM, more disturbing facts came to light. The last sentence of the book got me pondering for a while as I wasn’t quite sure if that was the end or the start of a sequel but I liked it as it was such a clever way to exit what’s been an incredibly-suspenseful-spectacle. In a nutshell, this book is definitely worth a read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling story that keeps getting better and better till the very intriguing end. I would like to thank Kensington Books, NetGalley, and Mr. Charlie Donlea for sending me an advanced copy of this beautiful novel.

Was this review helpful?

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

Was this review helpful?

Wow, what a thrill. The first quarter was a bit slow, but it set up the plot and characters nicely. The last few chapters were exhilarating - I couldn't put it down. It kept me guessing to who the culprit was, right up until the end, and I was shocked by the revelation. I would recommend to those who are searching for their next psychological thriller!

Was this review helpful?

Pulse-pounding suspense thriller that grabbed hold, kept me engrossed and guessing throughout. Dr. Livia Cutter, a medical examiner fellow in Raliegh, North Carolina, chose the specialty of forensic pathology because she wanted to be able to answer questions about how someone died. The job, she hoped, would help her come to terms with the disappearance of her younger sister, Nicole, who had vanished a year prior. On that same night, another girl was also taken -- Megan McDonald, daughter of the local Emerson Bay's sherriff -- who had escaped after 2 weeks in captivity and returned home. But, where was Nicole? Megan, a scholar and star student who gave up Duke University, was working with a therapist and trying to get her life back on track. Livia and Megan connect when the body of a young man is pulled from the Bay. Apparently he was a guy Nicole was dating before she vanished. Livia keeps digging and new information comes to light. There's a lot going on in this story told in flashbacks to the time preceding the abduction and present day. Livia feels compelled to investigate the links, especially after she finds a commonality between Nicole, Megan, and the bodies of other missing girls. I liked the characters, the red herrings, and the twisty plot. A worthy follow up to his first novel, Donlea is an author that I plan to watch. The rather abrupt ending made me wonder if there will be a sequel to this or if I am expected to come to my own conclusion! I definitely recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for the e-book ARC to review.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: