The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

The Forgotten Girls

Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen has a knack not only for terrific plot twists, but for his characters: heroes, villains... and the victims who decide it's time to fight back.

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They are the victims no one has ever cared about, until now. Agents Stevens and Windermere return in the blistering new crime novel from the fast-rising, multi-award-nominated suspense star.
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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I did not know that The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen was one in a series. This was my first experience with his writing. I felt the novel started off a bit slowly. There was little character development and I felt like I had just dropped in and was missing something, however I kept on with the story and was glad I did. About a third of the way through the story the pace really picked up and it was an easy action packed read from there to the end. I do wish I had gotten a little background on the characters and how they fit together. ( I am reminded of how James Patterson brings the reader up to speed in his serial novels each book. ) I am happy to be introduced to a new author and anxious to read the other novels in this series.

This is the second time I’ve inadvertently read a book from the middle of an ongoing series rather than started from the beginning. Incidentally, both series happen to be in the crime/thriller genre and—due in part to the nature of the genre—both worked well enough as standalone novels (the first more so than this one). The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen will be the sixth book in his Stevens & Windermere series when it is released on March 14. If you’ve ever seen a crime procedural on television, you’re probably familiar with the facts: that many victims of violent crime are women, that women of color are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and that transients, drug addicts, and sex workers are likely to wind up as victims of violent crime. These are the very demographics that make up the target victims of a dangerous serial killer train hopping around the northern Midwest. It’s a case that falls into Stevens and Windermere’s laps and quickly proves larger and—thanks to the winter weather—tricky hunt for the killer. Reading The Forgotten Girls was very reminiscent of watching a two-part episode of Criminal Minds that was originally intended to only be one episode—two much story for one episode but not quite enough to comfortably fit into two either. The beginning felt choppy; there were a few too many perspectives from characters that we never saw again and who were only tangentially related to the story at hand, providing more spectacle than substance. I actually found the way the chapters were broken down throughout the novel to be distracting. Some chapters were longer and contained separations within them, even switching character focuses; others were absurdly short in order to, apparently, switch character focuses back and forth. This became obvious during sequences where the novel felt intentionally and artificially stretched, like there was a chapter and word count target to be met. I’d argue there are three major confrontations within the novel and, while the third and final confrontation is quite compelling, the first two fall flat. There are rapid changes between two perspectives that feel like an attempt to ratchet up the tension and drama, while the whole time it’s obvious how the scene will end up playing out. Similarly, there is one good twist that suffers from happening too quickly and too soon after that second drawn out confrontation; too much time is spent away from the character affected for the subsequent twist to carry the impact it should. When I inadvertently read the eighth book in Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren series first, I found it so compelling that I went back to the beginning and will continue catching up to where I started. The Forgotten Girls, while it stands alone well enough, wasn’t compelling enough to inspire me to restart from the beginning. The dynamics between Agents Stevens and Windermere read like tired clichés that I know I’ve seen a million times on police procedurals. I would have liked to see a little more follow up on the killer’s victims and families after the novel’s climax; there’s only one of the victim’s whose story is really acknowledged in the cleanup and resolution of the novel, despite the fact that there were other victims the reader gets to know through the many changes in narrative focus. Basically, I felt there was too much time spent on the killer and his textbook misogynistic motives and not enough on acknowledging the character’s victims, on giving voice to The Forgotten Girls beyond simply catching the killer and pointing out the backwards thinking/corner-cutting practices in clearly underfunded and overextended local law enforcement. So many aspects of the novel feel tired and redundant. The Forgotten Girls will be available in stores March 14, 2017.

This book is my first encounter with both the series about police detectives Stevens and Windermere and the author, Owen Laukkanen - and both encounters were pleasant ones. Laukkanen develops his story effectively and without much bravado or twists and turns, and the pages practically turn themselves. My main objection - albeit a minor one (hence the 4 stars) - is that there are too few surprises along the way for the reader. There is tension and some nailbiting in several places, but no real "I-didn't-see-that-one-coming" moments. The character description is not super deep, and although some of that has been taken care of in the first five books of the series, I didn't miss it all that much anyway. Laukkanen eases new readers into the series with references to past adventures here and there, but nothing that leaves newcomers to the series - such as myself - totally in the dark. The main protagonists are no superheroes who guess the villain's every next move, which is a huge plus in my book. To summarize, I was well entertained by this book and will definitely look into the previous books in the series. I wish that Laukkanen would throw in a few more surprises along the way.

I received an e-ARC of The Forgotten Girls from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. The Forgotten Girls is the sixth entry in a series featuring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agent Kirk Stevens and FBI agent Carla Windermere, who are part of a joint BCA-FBI task force that investigates violent crimes. This is my first book in the series and, though it can be read as a standalone, reading previous books may provide more insight into Stevens and Windermere. I found it hard to connect with either agent as they are not given much description. Stevens and Windermere’s latest case has them racing across frozen landscapes to solve the murders of several young women; their bodies have been discarded like trash near the Northern Rocky Mountains. They initially come on board to look into the death of a young woman when a photo of her dead body is discovered on the cell phone of a Minnesota man. It is determined the victim was killed in Idaho, a place the man claims he’s never been. He also claims strange photos have been showing up his phone for awhile and that he had a cell phone stolen several months back. Apparently, someone has been using his stolen phone to take photos and the photos are being backed up to his cloud. Once he is cleared, the investigation widens and takes them to a disturbing realization: this young woman may not be the only victim of the killer. There are rumors that a bogeyman trolls the Northwest and that he is responsible for many unsolved cases involving women. Some of the women are transients, prostitutes or runaways, forgotten women not a lot of people are looking for and not a lot of digging was done. Often, it is assumed the women are victims of the harsh environment, succumbing to the frigid elements. In the case of the young woman murdered in Idaho, she is a runaway and a train hopper. She’d been stowing away on trains to travel across the country. Her friend Mila, also a train hopper, is determined to find her killer and starts to track the killer via the rails as Stevens and Windermere also look for the killer - and for Mila. Things quickly escalate from an investigation to an all-out manhunt. There is a lot good about The Forgotten Girls. It’s suspenseful with short chapters that really keep up the pace and tension. The descriptions of the blizzard conditions and frozen environment in the Northwest are excellent and you can’t help but feel chilled while reading. It is also told using multiple POVs: Stevens, Windermere, a colleague named Mathers, Mila and the killer. The killer’s POV was very disturbing and intriguing. The train hopper premise was unusual and interesting and the author did a good job of creating the train hopper environment. The main issue I have is with the characters. There’s almost no descriptions of the main characters. From their behavior, I’m guessing Stevens is in his fifties and Windermere is in her early thirties. There’s one or two quick snippets about past cases and how they affected the two agents but nothing any deeper. It’s very hard to relate to either one. Stevens comes across as unremarkable while Windermere is sarcastic and abrasive. I really did not take to her. And - her use of “partner” at the end of almost every sentence she utters to Stevens drove me nuts. Overall, The Forgotten Girls is a good serial killer thriller with excitement and a great setting. The writing is good and the premise interesting but, as a fan of character-driven novels, I just wish that more time was taken to flesh out the characters.

A Penguin First to Read ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review. This is book 6 in a series but could be read as a standalone (as I did). There is a bogeyman riding the High Line killing young women that has become somewhat of an urban legend to the surrounding areas. Halfway through we learn who the rider is and Stevens and Windermere close in with another character, Mila, a runaway and a friend of one of the victims. Just like in real life, detective work is frustrating and though they are closing in, the killer is able to remain free after identified.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a giveaway in exchange for an honest review from This review is also posted on I liked this book, I really did – it was gripping, fast-paced, interesting and action-packed. It didn’t matter that this was book six in a series and I hadn’t read the prior five. I imagine the two main characters – Windermere & Stevens – are better articulated in earlier reads and by the sixth book not too much emphasis is put on characterizing them further; that’s one complaint but minor. However, I keep having the same thought: that this is entry level crime writing. This opinion is not based on the writing style or the content; the whole book just seemed too “safe” to me. I think the author did a wonderful job of capturing the train-hopping culture and describing the landscape of northwestern United States and then into Canada. I will try another book in the series and I hope it’s as gripping as this one but maybe a little more daring.

This was an easy read, chasing a serial killer that you just couldn't wait to see get caught. This killer targets runaways, prostitutes, vagrants, homeless...people that he thinks no one will miss. The story was good and well written, based on true crime. Dedicated to those who were never found, never identified...for those forgotten girls. That truth just hurts my heart. May they be at peace.

I felt cold, the entire time I was reading this novel. The author, Owen Laukkanen, brought this book to life for me. It was set in the Northern Rockies during blizzard conditions (which is why I was cold!!!!!). The topic of train hopping in the modern world astounded me. Not something I would have thought occurred today. I can understand how this lifestyle could be so dangerous as to attract a serial killer. I can also understand why the killer in this novel was so difficult to find and had killed for so long. There were as many twists and turns in this book as there are in the railroad tracks of the setting. Would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries/thrillers!!!

Thank you to First to Read for an eARC of this book.     A body is found dead, frozen in the snow.  A runaway, forgotten by society.  Pictures of her, both dead and alive, show up on a phone, the owner swearing he knows nothing of them.  As they move through this case, FBI agents Windermere and Stevens begin to see that there are more, many more.  Women that society turned their back on- that no one would miss.  The forgotten girls.         Mila, grief stricken after learning of her friend Ash's death, sets out on her own crusade.  She's going to recharge, and then she is going to find the one they call the Ghost Rider.... somehow she is going to avenge Ash.           It's a race against nature and man to try to put a stop to a twisted serial killer that got away for far too long.           I first learned about this series about three years ago when book three was offered on First to read.  I had no idea I was jumping into the middle of a series, but as with most of these books, you can pick them up and get the gist of it.  I do recommend reading them in order,  each one is brilliant and brings to bear a different aspect of the characters.  You can find out about all the books in the series here.  As always, I adored the play between characters.  I especially liked that he worked a bit more with Windermere's boyfriend Mathers, as we know  more about Stevens' family.  I was a little disappointed that they weren't even really mentioned in this book though.  Told in several different POV'S you get a good read on the victim, Mila, the agents and our villain.           As far as the adult content goes,  there is a lot.  Language, drug use, sexual content, and violence.  This book is not meant for young teens, I give it an eight.

I liked this book. Like many others, I didn't realize that this was #6 in a series. The story didn't lack anything through not having read the first books but the main characters seemed a little flat. I'm sure that they would be more interesting had I read the other books. That being said the storyline was interesting and moved along quickly. There were a couple of spots that seemed to drag on but I stayed up late to see what would happen at the end. I will definitely go back to book one and see who these characters are...hopefully I've found a new series. Thank you First To Read and the Publisher for the copy in exchange for this honest review

I don't read a lot of thrillers or crime novels primarily because they aren't really my cup of tea. Overall, I found this novel to be pretty good. I liked that the chapters were short so it made the book feel more fast-paced and I read through it pretty quickly. I liked how the author described where the story took place in great details. It really made you feel like you were in the novel too. I felt like the main characters Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere weren't fully developed, but maybe that's because this book is in a series and they had already been fleshed out in the previous books. I think this book can be read as a stand-alone though.

Thank you First to Read and the Publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review.I liked this book alot. I didn't realize this was a series so will definitely be looking for the other books. The only feedback to change was it could have been a bit shorter. Some parts of the search seemed to drag out a bit more than needed, though it all came together for a wonderful ending. I can't wait to read more.

Thank you First to Read and the Publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review. I have been reading this series since the beginning and was so excited to get another book. It's like catching up with an old friend. Even though it is the sixth book in the series it can be read as a stand alone (although you may want to read all of the books because Owen Laukkanen does such a good job describing the characters and bringing them to life). The story is very well written and keeps the reader engaged. I look forward to his books and this one did not disappoint.

A good quick read with short chapters and fast-paced action. Somewhat lacking in character development of the main characters; however, this is the sixth book in the series and I did not read the earlier ones. It's possible characters may have developed more in the earlier books. Don't feel you need to read the earlier books to catch up to this story. I'd be willing to give the authors other books a shot.

Thank you First to Read and the Publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review. Little before I started reading it I realized it was part of a Series (this is book 6) which made me wonder all the events prior to this book and felt afraid I would be missing a lot. However I kept going and have to say the more I read crime/suspense the more I like it and The Forgotten Girls is another book on my list of great books I have read lately. Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere are very unique characters which help a lot to the story and keep the reader interested. Serial Killers is not something I usually read about but the approach it is given in the book makes it one full of suspense, well structured and with a great story to tell. Overall, I enjoyed the book, the story and would definitely like to read the other books in the series.

I received an advanced copy of this book to review from Penguin's First To Read program, and I am very happy to have been introduced to this author and series. Although I had not read the previous novels in the series, I did not feel that I was missing out on important information that kept me from enjoying the mystery. The story moved along at a good pace, and the scenario of young people catching rides on various trains, hitchhiking their way around the country, was new and fascinating for me. I felt for Mila, a young girl who has lost the friend who helped her survive her first bit of time riding the rails. It was her feelings and memories of one of the victims that made me the most anxious for Kirk and Carla to catch the perpetrator in the end. A great read, and one I would recommend to others to pick up and try!

This is the first book in this series that I have read and I felt that I was missing a lot in the main characters. Throughout the story they felt flat and uninteresting. The serial killer character also felt flat with his motive coming off pedestrian and also uninteresting. However the story line and plot were very interesting. Train hoppers and the very northern-most area of the US was something I haven't run across before. The writing was also spot on - I could imagine the winter landscapes easily and was really able to relate to the intense cold and storms. Those elements were enough to keep me interested throughout the story.

The Forgotten Girls was very good. It is a fast paced thriller, and it was an easy read as well. I loved the tenacity of Mila. For a teenager she had a lot of courage to do what she does in the book, and I am trying to be vague so as not to spoil anything. The characters of Carla Windermere and Kirk Stevens were pretty good too. Overall I really enjoyed it. The only criticism I have is the part where they finally get there man was drawn out a wee bit too long in my opinion. I wanted them to get this waste of skin so he could get what he deserved. Thanks again First To Read and Owen Laukkanen.

Received an ARC from First To Read for an honest review: First, I like many others it seems, did not know from the blurb that it was book 6 in a series. That scared me just a tiny bit when I started it, but as I read the book I realized it definitely also works as a standalone. Second, I'm not big on crime novels that are not of the "cozy mystery" variety. That being said, the more violent scenes in this book were not...bothersome. It worked it's way up in intensity, but there was nothing that forced me to step away from the book and take a breather. That being said, though, the book was full of amazing scenes beautifully described that you couldn't, as a reader, NOT picture, even if you didn't want to. Lines like: "Even the sky seemed static, just a blank wall, a paint swatch, 'chronic depression gray'." were scattered throughout, and they place you in the wintry, desolate, desperate situation of the characters so that you are right beside them, experiencing what they are, for better or worse. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even though the content was not a topic of my normal choosing (sorry, serial killers hunting women freak me out). Extra bonus for the techy geek stuff I didn't know about the "cloud" that I had to double check with the more "techno-advanced" member of our household about. Definitely makes me think twice about the idea of even donating a used phone.

The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen was a fast paced thriller. Following the railways we watch as the prey are being hunted. As the chapters switch back and forth between characters it's easy to want to read just one more page. Different characters kept the liveliness in full swing. The only real down part for me was I hadn't read this series before. I was able to follow along. It is a fine stand alone book. But in sense I didn't feel a closeness to our main FBI characters as I would have liked. I will be adding this series to my to-read list though!


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