TAKEN By Dinuka McKenzie (Harper Collins, February 2023)
In my view, Dinuka McKenzie’s The Torrent was the outstanding Australian crime debut novel of 2022, and now she has followed it up with the equally good Taken (Harper Collins, February 2023).
Detective Sergeant Kate Miles is back from maternity leave in the small northern New South Wales town of Esserton, and juggling the competing demands of family and work. When an infant goes missing, Kate finds herself fronting a high-profile and emotionally fraught case that causes friction and problems at work and home. Was baby Sienna removed from her bassinet by an unknown abductor or is the answer closer to home? As Kate pursues one line of inquiry, her bosses and rivals are much more comfortable with a simpler solution and are dismissive of Kate’s suggestions. As tensions around the case rise, Kate finds herself on the outside, especially when her father, a former senior policeman, gets dragged into a corruption scandal.
This is another outstanding book by Dinuka that provides a fresh take on the Australian crime novel. The plotting and pacing are very good, and the suspense steadily builds as Kate’s life spins out of control and the case takes a terrible turn. Some well timed and credible bursts of action keep the story interesting, and the conclusion is satisfying and surprising.
The characters are well nuanced and interesting and Dinuka skilfully weaves Kate’s mixed heritage into the story in a way that is subtle, but telling:
“‘You the police, are you?’
She didn’t miss his clear derision as he took in her appearance, obviously neither the sex nor the skin colour he had expected.”
Themes around gender, parentage, roles, and corruption add to the book’s richness, without slowing the story, or becoming too didactic. The background storyline about political corruption also gives the book extra depth, and I enjoyed how Dinuka brought back a character from The Torrent and fleshed him out a bit and added some motivation for his actions in the previous book. In all, another very entertaining novel that cements Dinuka’s status as a rising star on the Australian crime fiction scene.
I would rate this as being an outstanding crime novel that is likely to be in the mix for award consideration at the end of the year.
Taken will be released in Australia in February 2023 and on Kindle in the United States in February 2023.
Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and the publisher for an early copy of the book for review.