Book Review: The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie

Back to my favourite genre – Australian crime fiction…

Detective Kate Miles is a cop of Sri Lankan descent in the Northern NSW country town of Esserton. Miles is heavily pregnant and trying to wrap up an armed holdup case a week off maternity leave when her boss asks her to review a closed case. The drowning of a man in the river during a flood seems straight forward until Miles starts digging.

They walked on, Kate doing her best to keep pace, her hand moving to support the bulk of her belly and stepping with care along the muddy creek bed. She noticed several thick tree branches, rocks of all sizes, and even the odd shopping trolley. Flood debris, lying where the waters had dropped them, inert and innocent.

Dinuka McKenzie’s debt novel The Torrent won the Harper Collins Australia 2020 Banjo Prize. The police procedural is an easy read that explores country life, a woman making her way in a man’s world, and diversity – without making an issue if it.

There was a slight insolence in his manner. Nothing obvious that she could put her finger on. Maybe it was because she was a woman. Possibly it was her colour, though she didn’t think so. He didn’t strike her as that kind of insecure.

Protagonist Kate Miles makes a refreshing change from the usual jaded middle aged male cop in Australian crime novels. She’s complex, smart and dogged. The plot is tight, the characters unusual but believable, and the prose well crafted.