Stolen – Tess Stimson

This was the first novel I’ve read by this author, but it will not be my last! 

Alex Martini is an attorney, and the mother of a very strong-willed little girl – in the opening chapter, you’ll learn all about the precocious Charlotte “Lottie” Martini as her mother shares some of her rebellious antics with the reader.  A single mother after the death of her husband Luca in a bridge collapse, Alex and Lottie are on their way to Florida to attend the marriage of her best friend Marc and his bride-to-be Sian. 

Despite Alex’s misgivings, Lottie behaves herself and the wedding goes off without a hitch. As Lottie and the other flower girls play with one another, Alex takes advantage of the break from parenting, and has a quick sexual encounter on the beach with a well-known tennis player. A few hours later, she realizes that the golden curled Lottie is nowhere to be found and sounds the alarm. Despite the entire wedding party and guests searching diligently, Lottie is nowhere to be found. As the press gets wind of the disappearance of the child, Alex’s life, both personal and professional, becomes tabloid fodder with everyone venturing opinions about the disappearance, preceding events & Alexa in general. As days go by, and all leads dry up, there remains not a trace of little Lottie. 

Quinn is a young journalist who works as a news correspondent when she’s not binge drinking. Grossly disfigured after an IED explosion while reporting from Syria, Quinn knows she’ll never be a prime-time anchor, but still carries a burning desire to chase a good story – and Quinn becomes very interested in Lottie’s disappearance. But she goes too far when she practically accuses Alex of negligence on national television and is removed from covering the disappearance by her employer. But Quinn is unwilling to let this story go. 

As weeks turn into months, Alex makes it her sole mission in life to discover what happened to Lottie. A video is anonymously sent to Alex with a shadowy figure carrying off a small child, a figure who seems strangely familiar – then a chance encounter between two passing trains has Alex sure she’s spotted Lottie and her kidnapper. Meanwhile, Quinn is doing her own research, digging through witness statements, photos, police reports and the like, looking for something – anything to help with the search. 

What really happened to little Lottie…???

I initially was hesitant to read this because I always find stories about missing children haunting, in a way. (Remember Finders Keepers, by Fern Michaels – that one is still with me – and I had to have read it 10-15 years ago – if you haven’t read it, you must!)  But read it I did, and transfixed I was by the disappearance, the storyline, the suspense, the whiplash provoking twists…this one kept me mesmerized as I, too searched for Lottie between each page.  Told from Alex’s perspective, with a mother’s love and brutal honesty, this one will resonate long after the last page is turned.