The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen has developed a certain style with the Stevens and Windermere books. Sort of a cat and mouse game between an ordinary but intelligent criminal and one or more sets of police agencies or rival criminals. The Forgotten Girls is a bit of a departure from that formula, but Laukkanen proves he can write a straight up mystery thriller just as well as anyone.

Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere are a bit of an odd pairing, representing the Minnesota BCA and the FBI, but they complement each other well. They also make for an interesting pair to follow. The Forgotten Girls starts when a murdered girl falls in their laps courtesy of a picture uploaded from a stolen phone. Stevens and Windermere quickly discover that they are on the trail of a serial killer that no one knew existed because the murdered girls are people no one really missed and for whom no one tried very hard to find out what happened to them. Many of them were girls who stole rides on trains, making the murders even more difficult to connect.

Along with Stevens and Windermere, the killer is being hunted by a young woman named Mila, whose friend Ash was one of the victims. The two agents are also trying to find her hoping she can bring them one step closer to catching their man. Stevens and Windermere are frustrated both because they are perpetually one step behind the killer and by weather which keeps them snowed in and out of communication with the outside world. Gradually the noose tightens around their quarry, but how many more victims will he claim before they get him and will Mila be one of them?

Stevens and Windermere are an interesting pair. Stevens is more of a puzzle solver interested in criminal’s motivation and guessing what the next step will be. Windermere, while clever herself, is more comfortable with action. Gone is the awkward sexual tension between them from the first few books which was really more uncomfortable than interesting. In its place is a fierce loyalty to one another that both helps them function as a team and raises the stakes when one or both of them are in danger.

The Forgotten Girls is another solid entry in the Stevens and Windermere series. The chase builds throughout the novel and the climactic standoff is tense and exciting. Laukkanen cleverly uses the winter elements to convey both danger and frustration. They hamper the police investigation as well as offer danger to the victims and opportunity for the killer. Recommended read.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line train through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice.
But someone has noticed now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked.

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