Baby Girl Jones, a Jaw-Dropping Crime Thriller by Cortney Donelson

The Bottom Line: Baby Girl Jones is a meticulously-crafted crime thriller that will wow readers with several jaw-dropping reveals.

In Cortney Donelson’s The Billionaire’s List, twenty-nine-year-old recluse Greta Goldman’s life was thrust onto a new trajectory after the murder of her billionaire uncle. Baby Girl Jones begins Greta’s story 17 years earlier, as she struggles with bed-wetting, narcissism and how to handle the smugness of knowing she’s more cognitively brilliant than those around her.

Donelson tells the story along multiple timelines spanning decades. In the early chapters, we also meet eleven-year-old Penny, who has been in the foster care system for most of her life. She was adopted once, but her adoptive parents were murdered. Now a victim of sexual abuse in her own home, she’s a frequent runaway. 

Enter Detective Claire Miller, who in 2023 investigates the death of a middle-aged woman who seems to know she’s going to die and seems to be asking for forgiveness for abandoning a baby girl three decades earlier. But did she really write the note, or did someone else? Was this suicide, or murder? And who is the baby? 

Donelson has presented us with a cast of emotionally complex characters, each with deep backstories. While writing in the third person, Donelson’s style effectively immerses us in each of the characters’ inner thoughts, fears, traumas, opportunities and dreams. Claire, a former olympic gymnast with exceptional intuition but poor eyesight, has a particularly compelling arc.  She displays a stunning range of emotions and capabilities, from the grit she brings into her police work to emotions so overwhelming that she drops a highly sensitive piece of information in public. And Dr. Stone, whose dissertation discusses “society’s glamorization of the fiendishly clever psychopathic serial killers” is fascinating as she tries to categorize and analyze young Greta. Check out Donelson’s notes after the final chapter about the study of a certain real-life killer. 

Throughout this tense, high-stakes crime thriller, the book’s primary characters explore fascinating questions of identity. The perceived value of names, of anonymity, and of labels are questioned throughout, creating huge payoffs – and plenty of surprises. While it takes time for Claire (and Greta) to piece the major characters’ stories together – Donelson’s handling of timelines and information release is extremely intricate – readers will be rewarded with several big payoffs in the book’s final third.

Scroll to Top