The Taken Ones: Three Girls Go into a Forest – Only One Comes Out

A hot day in the summer of 1980. Amber, her friend, Rue, and Rue’s little sister, Lily, set out for a lake in Minnesota to cool off. Getting there involves going through a forrest, a very dark, scary forrest that legend says is haunted by the “Bendy Man.” The girls dismiss that story, but they never reach the lake and only one girl, Rue, comes out, the other two disappear. Dubbed “The Taken Ones,” a police investigation and massive hunt fails to turn up Amber or Lily. Although Rue survives, with the soles of her feet badly burned from having walked on a hot tar road, she is in shock and unable to talk. When she finally does, she remembers nothing.

Flash forward to the summer of 2022. A homeless man hears a woman screaming from an underground grave. He’s unable to dig her out fast enough to save her. By the time cold case detective Evangeline Reed and forensic scientist Harry Steinbeck arrive on the scene, the woman is dead. She’s found with a half heart red necklace, the same one worn by Amber. Van and Harry have to go back in time to the original abductions before they can solve the present case and perhaps save Lily. 

Jess Lourey (Photo Credit: CK Photography)

Jess Lourey’s The Taken Ones is, at times, not an easy read since it deals with the worst kind of abuse, that affecting helpless children. Van, who spent her childhood raised by a cult, empathizes with the victims. Her trauma also manifests in nightmares that reveal crimes being committed in real time. When Van was a detective with the Minneapolis Police Department, her partner, Bart Lively, may not have understood her visions, but he believed her instincts. Because of Van’s visions, the duo had an enviable close record. After Bart died, Van became a pariah, and was forced to leave the department. She landed with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Cold Case Unit, but is without Bart’s support and protection. When she finds herself working with her old nemesis, Detective Dave Comstock, she will have to prove herself all over again.

Van and Comstock reach an agreement, of sorts. He will handle the murder of Amber, while Van focuses on the cold case. Overlap is inevitable and although Van is more interested in solving the case and saving Lily’s life, Dave is more interested in covering his own tracks back when he was assigned the missing girls’ case. When Van learns that Dave may have a reason to keep certain evidence hidden, she has to tread carefully.

Her partnership with Harry is new and Van is reluctant to share with him too much about her background. He does research on his own and learns that she was one of the children raised on Frank’s Farm, a sprawling agricultural business ruled over by a sadistic man who had many wives called “mothers,” and many children who worked the farm, were homeschooled, and tortured when they misbehaved. Although the farm was closed down and the children rescued, Frank disappeared. Van often feels she sees him, adding to her anxiety and sleeplessness.

Van keeps another secret, something that helped her save other children but could send her to prison. Hoping that Harry won’t reopen a case that would implicate her, means she often has to walk a fine line. They come together to solve the crime and save some lives. The Taken Ones is a page turner for sure that may leave the reader as haunted as Van.

The Taken Ones
Jess Lourey

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (705 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.