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Minn. writer Jess Lourey's new thriller series revives cold cases

Book cover for "The Taken Ones" and photo of the author Jess Lourey.
Photo of the author by Cindy K Photography
Author's website
Jess Lourey, author of The Taken Ones.

"The Taken Ones" has detectives searching for connections between a woman found buried alive and two girls who vanished decades ago in a small Minnesota town.

Minnesota writer Jess Lourey received accolades for her 2020 Edgar-nominated breakthrough novel Unspeakable Things and a Minnesota Book Award for her 2022 novel The Quarry Girls — but the author has well over 20 books to her name.

She's written for genres from children’s books to short stories, and nonfiction to romance-mysteries to thrillers. Her newest novel has just been published; it’s called The Taken Ones — the first book of the Reed and Steinbeck Thriller series.

Two girls vanish in the woods in a small town in Minnesota in 1982 and decades later a woman is found buried alive. A strange and dark connection between these two crimes is at the heart of this exciting new thriller featuring Bureau of Criminal Apprehension cold case detective Van Reed and forensic scientist Harry Steinbeck.

The two agents are oddly matched, but both dedicated to solving the crime. This first book in the series is told through Detective Van Reed's point of view.

In a recent What We're Reading interview, Lourey explained she modeled Reed and her partner Steinbeck after The Odd Couple's Oscar and Felix as well as the popular FBI agents in The X-Files.

"I loved the Mulder/Scully dynamic and I wanted to find a new way to make them play off of each other's strengths or fill in what the other partner doesn't have," she said.

"I love fairy tales ... there's moral lessons in them, but also they make things very normal, like a forest or a house, seem terrifying. And I think that makes the story more powerful."
Writer Jess Lourey

The Taken Ones contains some dark and mystical storytelling elements: an eerie ancient woods, prescient dreams, a villain with seemingly strange powers.

Lourey drew from her love of fairy tales to enrich this atmospheric story.

"There's moral lessons in them, but also they make things very normal — like a forest or a house — seem terrifying. And I think that makes the story more powerful," she explained.

Lourey is already at work on the second book in the Reed and Steinbeck Thriller series, and has a new children's book coming soon as well.

She is currently on tour for The Taken Ones and will be in Bemidji at Four Pines Bookstore on Thursday, Oct. 5, and Duluth on Oct. 8 at The Bookstore at Fitger's.

More information on these events can be found on her website.

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What We're Reading is made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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Tammy works at Bemidji State University's library, and she hosts "What We're Reading," a show about books and authors.