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by Owen Laukkanen
GP Putnam's Sons, March 2017
358 pages
ISBN: 0399174559

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Owen Laukkanen's sixth novel featuring FBI agent Carla Windermere and her various partners, Carla and Kirk Stevens are following a trail of murders of mostly indigenous women who are train hoppers. The riders, as they call themselves, are fleeing bad family situations, are often drug users, and their attitude towards American culture is jaundiced by their experiences. And most of them are very young.

Enter Leland Hurley, psychopathic woman hater, rejected in his youth by the girls he approached, who has turned his rejection into a string of rape/murders of young vulnerable women. Hurley is also a survivalist who lives in the wilds of Montana, rides his snowmobile to the train line, jumps aboard looking for new victims, and then disappears back into the wilds.

When he kills Ash, Mila Scott's best rider friend, he takes on a determined young woman who manages to find him before Stevens and Windermere can save her from her risky behavior. Hurley has murdered at least twenty-five girls, but his luck has begun to change for the worse as Mila begins to track him, with Stevens and Windermere two steps behind.

Laukkanen, who was inspired by the story of Robert Pickton's murder of at least forty-nine women outside Vancouver BC, depicts Hurley as a vicious man with the emotional maturity of a two year old, who he still manages to outwit Mila and the FBI repeatedly.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS has three extensive cliffhangers. Girls are in his clutches or almost in his clutches, with help just two steps behind. While he is not killing them anymore, he is certainly traumatizing them before their rescues. But the women are not weak and their struggles are heroic. Mila is the bravest of them all, but Carla his pretty ballsy herself. In a harrowing scene, Carla confronts Hurley, talking and manipulating him while he holds a gun to her head.

Of course rescue comes in the nick of time, but Carla herself feels no joy in Hurley's capture. All she can think about is those twenty-five girls, no longer forgotten, but also no longer alive.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS must have been hard to write. It is a tribute and a testament to the victims of Robert Pickton and all women who have been victimized by the twisted reasoning of psychopathic misogyny. And it is also a tribute to women who refuse to let their vulnerability prevent them from acting, like Mila Scott, who tracks Leland Hurley down, almost losing her life in the process. And we continue to admire Carla Windermere and her incredible feats of derring-do, novel after novel.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, March 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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