Book review: The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie

Wednesday, April 20, 2022 Permalink

I’d heard a lot of good things about The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie and now that I’ve read it, am happy it’s tagged on Goodreads as Detective Kate Miles #1 meaning there are more to come. Of course my finely honed deductive skills also noted the inclusion of a preview of book number two at the end of The Torrent, so….

McKenzie’s introduced us to an engaging lead in Kate and I liked the support cast we’d expect to see again – her husband, her work partner, her boss and her father. There’s a bit of backstory and baggage in relation to her father’s past but it doesn’t overwhelm the story unfolding here in any way which also includes a nice balance of the crime/s-at-hand and the usual personal stuff impacting on work lives – particularly that of cops’.

Book review: The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzieThe Torrent
by Dinuka McKenzie
Series: Detective Kate Miles #1
Published by HarperCollins - AU
on 02/02/2022
Source: Purchased
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1460760190
Pages: 333

In Northern New South Wales, heavily pregnant and a week away from maternity leave, Detective Sergeant Kate Miles is exhausted and counting down the days. But a violent hold-up at a local fast-food restaurant with unsettling connections to her own past, means that her final days will be anything but straightforward.

When a second case is dumped on her lap, the closed case of man drowned in recent summer floods, what begins as a simple informal review quickly grows into something more complicated. Kate can either write the report that's expected of her or investigate the case the way she wants to.

As secrets and betrayals pile up, and the needs of her own family intervene, how far is Kate prepared to push to discover the truth?

We get two cases for the price of one here and though they are ultimately linked (coincidentally rather than causally) I liked the way McKenzie introduces them. Kate and new partner Josh (who’s taking over for her when she’s on maternity leave) are on the hunt for some young burglars whose spree has just escalated into violence. And then her boss pulls her in to have a look over a drowning that took place during flash flooding three months before. It was ruled accidental but the victim’s mother is sure her son’s wife was involved.

It seems farfetched to Kate that someone could connive a drowning after their car was washed off the road driving during flash-flooding. But at the same time she realises it’s a good way to hide a crime – with injuries being written-off to fast-flowing water full of debris as well as river banks.

As we’ve just seen floods here in Australia this is a timely release in some ways. A reminder of the threat. And in fact the book opens with the attempted rescue of the victim which – in itself is putting search and rescue teams’ and volunteers’ lives at risk.

Kate’s relationship with her partner-but-soon-to-be-replacement is a bit tenuous as the book opens. They’ve only recently been paired and though Kate’s the senior officer there’s a bit of a power struggle going on. I very much liked the way McKenzie underplays this story arc. Similarly, I appreciated Kate’s relationship with her boss. We’re so often sold the acrimonious cop/sarge thing. Of course it’s not smooth sailing policing here as Kate’s up against some racism and dealing with her father’s legacy (both good and bad).

She was used to it. No matter what her achievements, her detractors would always say she had got there because of her father and her skin colour. A diversity hire. It was a cross she had always borne and would have to bear for the rest of her career. pp 173-174

As well as the two investigations McKenzie introduces us to a teenage boy Eamon and his girlfriend, and given the robbery investigation involves teenagers we can assume the link will soon appear.

I very much enjoyed this debut novel from McKenzie. My only gripe (and yes, I always seem to find something I realise) was the number of coincidences drawn upon. I don’t think the community in which it’s set – the Tweed area – is that small that Kate and her team would happen upon the same people several times… allowing her to make connections that aren’t necessarily obvious or feasible.

I think one or two could have been dropped (her meeting her father’s cleaner for example, and perhaps chatting to an employee at the pool) and she still could have made the necessary deductions. But again, they’re small things and didn’t detract at all from this book which offered up a complex plot (or two), several surprises and some very likeable characters.

The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.


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