The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers
St. Martin’s Press (June 13, 2017)
352 pages; $19.03 hardback; $14.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
Many readers will consider this novel to be Youers’ first, but fans will be familiar with the author from strong efforts such as Westlake Soul, Mama Fish, and End Times. With a voice demanding greater exposure, Rio’s The Forgotten Girl just might be the breakout novel he’s needed to reach a well-deserved massive following.
The Forgotten Girl is one of those pleasurable thrillers which focuses just as much on the characters as the story, heart-filled but brutal at the same time. Protagonist Harvey Anderson lives in a quiet town in western New Jersey, eking out a living as a street musician. He and his guitar please the townfolk and tourists in simple happiness.
Until he’s visited by a group of thugs who beat the living snot out of him. They seek information about his girlfriend, Sally Starling. One problem. Harvey can’t recall her at all. Who she is, where she might be, or even what she looks like.
In rolls The Spider, a decrepit man who crawls through Harvey’s mind, searching for any memories of Sally, causing excruciating pain in the process. Sally appears to hold the power to erase memories, possibly more, and has disappeared from Harvey’s life. The Spider and his crew need to find her while Harvey simply wishes to get there first and retrieve what he feels deep within, something worth fighting for.
What ensues is a blistering tale which crosses the country with a hero who has no skills other than strumming a guitar and singing. The violence awaiting him will change everything, almost as much as his missing memories.
Youers writes with both fire and soul here, imbuing The Forgotten Girl with life which lifts the novel above many others. The supernatural element exists yet doesn’t overwhelm the story. For those who haven’t discovered him, this thriller is a great introduction, but it shouldn’t stop there.