The Stolen Ones
Owen Laukkanen, Putnam, 368 pages
“The Stolen Ones” follows two Romanian sisters, Irina and Catalina, who have been kidnapped to sell as sex workers. Irina escapes, triggering a sequence of events that further threaten Catalina. Special Agent Kirk Stevens and his FBI partner Carla Windermere are called in to find the sister and the other kidnapped women. Language barriers and a crew of slippery villains well-versed in police evasion make their job difficult and dangerous.
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Laukkanen excels at writing relentlessly fast-paced action scenes, and this book is full of them, with exceptional final fight scenes. While the plot may feel familiar to those of us steeped in television procedurals, its exposure of the insidious details of sex trafficking is laudable, though perhaps a bit sensationalized for something this horrific and terrifying .
I was less than impressed with the characterization of the bad guys – there seems to be an attempt to humanize one of them and it simply doesn’t work – and the head of the trafficking organization feels over the top even by TV standards.
This is the fourth installment of the author’s popular Stevens/Windermere series, and though knowledge of the previous books is not absolutely necessary to enjoy “The Stolen Ones,” it may help in piecing together the characters’ relationships with each other.
David Baldacci, Grand Central Publishing, 416 pages
David Baldacci has written another thriller that will have readers engaged from the first page. Amos Decker, a stellar athlete who made it to the NFL, experienced a helmet-to-helmet collision that changed his life forever. From that moment, Decker’s brain shifted and he lost the ability to forget. The entire world became a myriad of colors and memories that he could easily access. With his new abilities, he’s the perfect candidate to become a police detective. He can visit a crime scene once and walk through it over and over again in his mind, and he can remember verbatim testimony by a witness or suspect.
His life is destroyed when he arrives home and finds that his wife, young daughter and brother-in-law have been killed. He can never forget the scene, and with no witnesses and little evidence, he sinks into despair. Decker ends up leaving the force and becomes homeless. He works as a private detective but has few clients, and he’s embarrassed by his appearance and how low he has fallen.
Three years later, a man walks into a police station and declares that he’s responsible for the murders. Decker, who has never forgotten that day or any of the evidence, realizes the man’s confession is full of holes.
Baldacci is a master storyteller, and although the payoff might be a bit of a stretch, “Memory Man” works because Amos Decker is an amazing character. Reading how Decker journeys from hitting rock bottom to finding ultimate redemption is nothing short of rewarding.