“Two Girls Down,” by Louisa Luna, is a quick and intense read about a bounty hunter searching for two missing girls. Alice Vega, the bounty hunter, has a good track record finding missing kids and charges appropriately. The girls’ mother is desperate and with her wealthy mother’s help engages her. Despite her reputation, Vega gets no help from the local police, who are already understaffed and underfunded. They’re more invested in mundane local matters like the ongoing meth and opioid epidemic. They don’t have the manpower for a hunt for two kids. Vega manages to connect with private investigator Max Caplan, a former cop who took the fall for someone and who has lived in disgrace since then. He leans on his former fellow cop who owes him and is able to get leads.
Both Vega and Caplan are very aware that there’s a time limit on finding missing children. If they’re gone too long they invariably wind up dead. They have to push themselves and everyone around them to track down every clue and follow it up, no matter how thin. This leads to some delicious red herrings and twists. I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting the big reveal.
Vega is a complicated character, managing to be both remote and passionate at different times. She’s obviously Seen Some Stuff and it’s affected her deeply. She comes across as cold, but she’s very emotionally invested in her work. Caplan struggles as a single dad who still misses his ex-wife while recognizing their relationship was unhealthy and is now over. He does his best to raise his teenage daughter who is a little too mature for her age.
I enjoyed this book and tore through it one day. One of the things I appreciated is that we don’t get a view from the eyes of the girls as they’re held captive. That always stresses me out as opposed to thrilling me, and it was nice to see this as more of a detective story than a thriller.
If you’re looking for a good meaty mystery with an edge, this is a good one. It’s well written with believable characters and a compelling story line. I should note that it does feature mention of pedophilia with one girl being groomed. I’ll slip in a spoiler for those concerned, which doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the story: she’s not actually molested.