Reviewed by Robert Goodman.
By Dinuka McKenzie, Harper Collins, $32.99.
Dinuka McKenzie burst onto the Australian rural crime scene with her clever and engaging debut The Torrent. That book resolved the main action but left a bunch of threads dangling in the life of its main character Kate Aneesha Miles. The follow up, Taken, is set just a few months after the action in The Torrent and McKenzie pulls on those threads to keep both the personal and professional pressure on her protagonist to great effect.
Taken opens with a couple of crime fiction staples – a domestic violence call out and the kidnapping of a very young child. The two cases are somewhat connected in that the perpetrator of the first is also the abusive ex-partner of the mother of the second. Kate Miles, just back from a very short maternity leave but also still suffering from some trauma from the circumstances preceding the birth of her daughter, is put in charge of the abduction case. Almost immediately she is under pressure from her partner and from her boss, but also from her husband, now out of work and having to carry the bulk of the childcare responsibilities. On top of this, the truth about her father’s relationship with a now dead and possibly corrupt senior politician becomes public putting her further in the crosshairs.
Detective Sergeant Kate Miles continues to be a fascinatingly flawed character with complex relationships to navigate. McKenzie effortlessly blends the professional, personal and political in the life of Kate Miles, including the casual racism that she encounters being part Sri Lankan. These aspects all impact on not only her actions but the way she sees the world and approaches the crimes she is investigating. And as a result she has quickly become one of the more interesting protagonists in Australian crime.
The intertwining of the two cases which kick the narrative off is handled effectively. And the resolution of the overarching mystery is not only satisfying but should be also be solvable by readers who are paying attention to the clues as they are dropped. The only minor bum note in Taken are the short italicised perpetrator’s point of view chapters. They have become a bit of a staple in crime fiction more broadly and in this case serve to confuse rather than illuminate.
McKenzie keeps the pressure up to the point where Taken almost demands to be read in a single sitting. This is another effective piece of Australian rural crime fiction and a great second outing from an author to watch.
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