Review: Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea


Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books (May 21, 2024)

From Thirty years ago, Baby Charlotte vanished. Today, she’s still in danger.

When Dr. Sloan Hastings submits her DNA to an online genealogy site for a research assignment, her goal is to better understand the treasure-trove of genetic information contained on ancestry websites. Brilliant and driven, Sloan is embarking on a fellowship in forensic pathology, training under the renowned Dr. Livia Cutty.

Sloan has one reservation about involving herself in the she’s adopted. Grateful for a loving home, she’s never considered tracking down her biological parents. The results of her search are shocking. Sloan’s DNA profile suggests her true identity is that of Charlotte Margolis, aka “Baby Charlotte”, who captured the nation’s attention when she mysteriously disappeared, along with her parents, in July 1995. Despite an exhaustive search, the family was never seen again, and no suspects were named in the case.

Sloan’s discovery leads her to the small town of Cedar Creek, Nevada, the site of her disappearance. It also leads her to Sheriff Eric Stamos. The Margolis family’s influence and power permeate every corner of Harrison County, and Eric is convinced that in learning the truth about her past, Sloan can also help discover what happened to Eric’s father, who died under suspicious circumstances soon after he started investigating the case her disappearance.

Slowly, over the course of a stifling summer, Sloan begins getting to know her relatives. Though initially welcoming, the Margolis family is also mysterious and tight-lipped. Not everyone seems happy about Sloan’s return, or the questions she’s asking. And the more she and Eric learn, the more apparent it becomes that the answers they both seek are buried in a graveyard of Margolis family secrets that some will do anything to keep hidden—no matter who else has to die…

My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The premise of this novel was interesting. A missing baby found alive thirty-years later while her birth parents are still no where to be found comes home to reconnect with her biological family, but more importantly try to find out what happened to her parents when she was just two-months old. 

For the most part, I enjoyed this story. Sloan was an interesting character, and I think I was just as invested in her past as she was. I also enjoyed getting to know her Aunt Nora, I as I could definitely sympathize with the woman being in the hard place of explaining to Slone that her mother hadn't been fully accepted into the family. I thought the character had the perfect blend of telling the truth, while also pointing out that it was a long time ago and that Sloan shouldn't think too unkindly of her grandparents. And I have to give Sloan credit for giving her grandparents the benefit of the doubt, because knowing what I knew about them and how they treated my mother, I'm not sure that I could have been as open as she was. 

Another thing I enjoyed was the way that Sloan was able to help Eric solve his own questions regarding what happened to his father without there being a romance between them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against romance in my thrillers, but most of the time that romance is just out of place, seems forced and/or takes over the plot, so I was happy not to have to worry about that here. 

Now for me, here is what I didn't like about this story. To begin with, there was a lot of repetition. Something (kind of funny and completely avoidable) happens between Sloan and Eric the first time that they meet (and before she agrees to help him). The story movies along, and then a couple of chapters later those same things are brought up again. Yes, I remember how their first meeting went. And I remember that she agreed to help him. I don't need the reminder. 

The two things that dropped my rating however would be this...


Seriously? I'm going to overlook the fact that the cameras I used in 1995 had to be wound forward before you could take the next shot. But you expect me to believe that a scared, irritated, whatever TWO MONTH OLD, was not only able to hit the button with enough force to capture an image, but also somehow in all of this chaos managed to frame certain shots perfectly? Get out of here. 


And then the way the perpetrator was taken care of? Well that was just so completely over the top and unbelievable that I rolled by eyes.

But hey, it was still an interesting story, and I feel like other people might enjoy it more. I would read more from this author.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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