Friday, December 30, 2011

Review of Taken by Niamh O'Connor (Transworld 2011)

Celebrity model, Tara Parker Trench, has just filled up her car with petrol at a Dublin city centre garage. Her young son, Presley, is asleep in his car seat and its lashing rain so she decides to leave him in the car whilst she pays. When she returns a couple of minutes later, Presley has gone. Turning to the police for help they do very little. At her wits end, Tara seeks the aid of Inspector Jo Birmingham. Frustrated by her colleagues lack of action, she sets to work on the case. Very quickly it becomes clear that there is much more going on than a snatched child. Tara's world is not simply modelling and child care, but includes drugs, prostitution and people in high places. And she has just dragged Jo Birmingham into it and its dangers.

Taken starts at a clip and steadily builds steam. Niamh O'Connor works as the true crime editor of the Sunday World and she brings her knowledge of Ireland's criminal underbelly to the story, fictionalising elements of rumours concerning high class prostitution she's heard in her day job. Whilst the criminal side of the story, linking the rich and famous with underclass criminal gangs seems credible, the policing and family side of the story seemed less so. The guards are portrayed as incompetent, jealous and backstabbing, and the procedural elements are weak. This worked to create some tension and melodrama, but also undermined the credibility of the story. The plot also relied on some awkward set-ups at times, such as leaving the car unlocked, putting people in an inspector's office unattended, and a mobile phone too wet to use. Despite this, the story rattles along at a heck of a pace, dragging the reader with it as the various threads are woven together and resolved, culminating in an explosive finale. And given the high melodrama, its breakneck speed, and the mixing of the rich, famous and criminal gangs I can easily envisage Taken being serialised for television. Overall, a searing commentary on the legacy of Celtic Tiger excesses, played out through thrill-bound melodrama.

1 comment:

Bernadette said...

I tried to read this one for the Ireland Reading Challenge but couldn't get into it, I find it difficult to swallow that all coppers are dolts as she seemed to be implying