“You don’t ever surf the trains on Highline” is a common catchphrase used by drifters who hop the trains in the Northwestern railroad. The reasoning? There is something evil there. People just die, they disappear, they never show up to where they are headed. The evil comes in the form of a deadly serial killer; they call him the ghost rider. He never gets caught, he evades the elements and he preys on women who will not be missed. They are prostitutes, runaways, people who have been forgotten. They are his now; the forgotten girls.
The Forgotten Girls, by Owen Laukkanen,is the sixth novel in the Stevens and Windermere series. This police procedural follows these two agents as they discover a photo of the body of a murdered woman on a cell phone. Now, hot on the trail, they chase down lead after lead until they find themselves smack down in the middle of train riding subculture and completely wrapped up in the legend of “the ghost rider”. Soon, they realize that it is not a legend or a ghost story; he is very much real and is responsible for up to 25 murders. As they go deeper into the investigation, they realize they are not the only one investigating. A young girl, Mila, is also seeking out the rider but for a completely different reason. Vengeance. As the two tales wrap around, the reader is taken on a gripping and thrilling ride.
I was initially worried that this novel would be difficult to follow; I didn’t realize that it was the sixth in the series. I have made this mistake before with other series and was unable to finish the book due to complete confusion. Do not worry my friends- this novel can completely be read as a standalone. I enjoyed it so much, I will be going back to track down the other five novels in this series. Owen Laukkanen is a fantastic writer and story developer. I was addicted from the first page.
Laukkanen used Canadian serial killer, Robert Pickton, as the background to The Forgotten Girls. This was especially interesting for me; I am Canadian so I remember this case very clearly. I am familiar with the places he speaks of in the novel and the terrain. It just made the novel even better for me. Laukkanen acknowledges this parallel during his author’s notes. I also loved Laukkanen’s use of the train and drifter subculture. It was completely different and so easy to become immersed in.
The novel is narrated as a police procedural normally is; the police case is highlighted with the insights by the officers involved. However, Laukkanen added several different perspectives. The reader gets glimpses and snippets into “the rider” as he prepares for the hunt and stalks his prey. This added a completely eerie element to the novel. He also gave Mila, the young vigilante, her own perspective. This gave so much variety and depth to the story. It was easy to connect with each character this way; I even found myself intrigued by “the rider” and his motivations.
I also loved the progression of this novel. As I was reading, I could feel the plot building and I was waiting for the plot to resolve itself. I had a pretty solid idea of where it was going to go- there weren’t really many options. However, at that point, Laukkanen takes the reader on another journey and rebuilds the plot back up. I felt like just when the novel couldn’t be filled with any more tension, Laukkanen found a way to take it to the next level. I loved this.
If you are a fan of the police procedural, or just want a really gripping and enthralling read, then I think you have found the next book to add to your TBR list.
This book will be published on March 2017. Mark your calendars!
I voluntarily received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from G.P Putnam’s Sons, Owen Laukkanen and Netgalley; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.