Skip to main content

Long Time Gone


Long Time Gone

Charlie Donlea’s latest thriller kicks off with what seems like an innocent enough premise that quickly turns into a Pandora’s box of intrigue. LONG TIME GONE is a true potboiler of a read that starts as a ripple and then becomes a tidal wave. It also may be the finest thing Donlea has written to date.

We begin in Cedar Creek, Nevada, in 1995 as Sheriff Sanford Stamos is about to meet a very unexpected end. While on a complex case, he is attacked by someone in his car and subdued. While groggy, the nameless subject injects Sanford twice in the arm with heroin, which first makes him euphoric and then sends him into a death spiral. His vehicle is pushed into a lake, leaving the residents to believe that their sheriff overdosed, drove himself into the water and drowned.

"LONG TIME GONE is a great blend of forensic science and police procedural amidst a hotbed of secrets and lies that grab you by the throat and refuse to let go."

In present-day Raleigh, North Carolina, Sloan Hastings is about to begin her training at the Office of the Medical Examiner on her way to becoming a forensic researcher so she can apply her skills in the world of law enforcement. Dr. Livia Cutty runs the program, and Sloan is working on an initial assignment in the field of forensic genealogy. As such, Sloan contacts a local genealogy expert to run her own data and work off of her family tree. She tells her adoptive parents first; she knows she was adopted and does not want them to think she is doing this behind their backs. They are cool with it and confess that they only met her birth mother on two occasions but never knew who her birth father was.

Sloan is not expecting the results she receives from her contact at He asks to meet with her privately as her DNA shows that she is 99.9% another person and an infamous one at that: Charlotte Margolis, a girl who disappeared without a trace, along with her parents, from their home in Cedar Creek back in 1995. Sloan is startled by this news, and her adoptive parents are just as perplexed. They all agree that law enforcement needs to be notified as the “Baby Charlotte” case was front-page news and in all the tabloids at that time.

The authorities confirm that Sloan is indeed Charlotte Margolis. Shortly thereafter, Sloan feels herself being tracked by a car with Nevada plates and is approached by a strange man waiting outside her apartment whom she proceeds to mace in the eyes. He turns out to be Sheriff Eric Stamos from Cedar Creek, who was made aware of Baby Charlotte’s discovery, and he has a lot of interesting information to share with her. As a result, Sloan has no choice but to return to Cedar Creek with Eric. Not only will she see her long-lost family, she will assist Eric in reopening the case that his father, Sanford, had been working on before his death.

What transpires is a classic suspense-fueled mystery where no one in the Margolis clan or anyone in Cedar Creek can be trusted. Both Sloan and Eric seek answers to crimes that changed each of their families and their lives forever, and these cases keep the tension mounting. The finale is unpredictable and completely satisfying. LONG TIME GONE is a great blend of forensic science and police procedural amidst a hotbed of secrets and lies that grab you by the throat and refuse to let go.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 8, 2024

Long Time Gone
by Charlie Donlea

  • Publication Date: May 21, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 1496727185
  • ISBN-13: 9781496727183