Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Tag: mystery

Book Review: Two Girls Down, by Louisa Luna.

Two Girls Down


Louisa Luna opens her novel Two Girls Down with the kidnapping of two sisters, Kylie and Bailey, ten and eight years old. Their mother has popped into a K-Mart for a few minutes, leaving the girls in the car. When she returns, the girls are gone. Frantic search. Police. Code Adam alert. Nothing. No trace. Enter Alice Vega, wild woman, free-lance missing-person finder, and Cap, ex-cop turned private detective. Vega became an overnight star when she recovered a high-profile child, and has been in demand ever since by people whose loved ones have disappeared. The police are not happy to have her involved in the case.

The grandmother of Kylie and Bailey asks Vega how many of the children she has she has gone after have been successfully found. Vega tells her all of them. One hundred per cent. The caveat, and the terrifying reality that drives the tension in the novel, is that not all were alive when she found them, and a few who were found alive were dead in other ways, scarred beyond repair by the experience. Cover photo Two Girls Down

When Vega calls on Cap to help her find Kylie and Bailey, the search lures him from his relatively safe and boring work breaking up bad marriages exposing unfaithful spouses. As an ex-cop, he is capable of handling the danger of the job Vega offers him, and the possibility of a little excitement stirs some of the old cop adrenalin.


Luna’s writing is strong. When we first meet Vega, she is doing a yoga handstand and thinking about the danger of not knowing what is just beyond your vision. “Her old boss in fugitive recovery, Perry, used to call it Little Bad and Big Bad. Little Bad was the teenager on the front porch with a Phillips screwdriver tucked into his pants. Big Bad was his daddy waiting inside with a loaded .38 and a pissed-off pit bull. There was always a worse thing that you couldn’t see, and it was closer than you thought.” When Cap meets the mother of the lost girls at a bar for an interview, the narrator tells us, “He looked at Jamie’s hands on the bar, lying there like leaves of a dead plant, and did not extend his.”


Though the writing style is strong, the strongest element of the novel is the characters. The two leads are interesting and complex. Luna vividly draws the supporting characters—the mother, Cap‘s daughter, the police—who are strong in their own right. Cap‘s daughter, Nell, is, in fact, almost a show-stealer—smart, sassy, loving.


The pacing in Two Girls Down is compelling. The build-up is quick, with the kidnapping kicking the conflict into gear immediately, and the intensity develops steadily right up to the powerful ending. I’d compare it to Black-Eyed Susans, by Julia Haeberlin (See my review here). And laced through the action and suspense, Louisa Luna offers the reader the possibility of romance. What more can you ask?

The Club Dumas

I’m humming, like a tight-wire in a high wind. A few minutes ago I finished reading a book that tasted like honey and red wine, that punched me right in the mouth and dared me not to like it, that made such love to me I cried “I’m melting!” So somebody’s got to read this book and talk to me.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, a television journalist born in Cartagena, whom I had never read and didn’t know existed, has written three novels, and now I want to read the other two. This novel, The Club Dumas, is a bibliophile’s delight–a literary mystery set in the underworld of serious book collectors and the mercenaries who serve them, with a strong dose of the occult thrown in. The title alludes to the 19th-century French writer Alexandre Dumas, whose book The Three Musketeers plays an important role in the novel. The style reminds me of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges and his labyrinths, cerebral, really smart writing, though this story is more accessible than some of Borges. And the characters are more human, more loveable than Borges’ tend to be.

I really like the main character, Lucas Corso, an imperfect, nearly dysfunctional, hero. Here is part of his introduction: “Corso was a mercenary of the book world, hunting down books for other people. . . . Jackals on the scent of the Gutenberg Bible, antique fair sharks, auction room leeches, they would sell their grandmothers for a first edition.”

I found the book at a book sale, decided to give it a shot, and bought it for fifty cents. Don’t you love it when that happens? Of course, I buy at least five book sale books for every one that turns to gold like this one did. But hey . . .

If you have read The Club Dumas, or if you are tempted to read it and give in to the temptation, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, I’m going on-line to find the first two novels.

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