Female detective? The odds are criminally stacked against you

As a subgenre of crime fiction, police procedural is often male domain, even when written by women. Think Ruth Rendell’s Wexford series or PD James and her poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh. And then there was Prime suspectwith Lynda La Plante providing memorable Detective Jane Tennison with a crime fiction backstory that sheds light on the historical challenges women faced as serving police officers.

Of Taken, the second in her award-winning series starring Detective Sergeant Kathryn Aneesha Miles, Dinuka McKenzie updates the situation and lets us know exactly what it feels like to be a woman and a cop. After desperately trying to solve a series of crimes before going on maternity leave The TorrentKate now struggles to get back into activity while dealing with a heady cocktail of post-traumatic stress disorder, postpartum depression and painfully swollen breasts.

Author Dinuka McKenzie has updated the standard male-focused police procedure.Credit:Emma Stergio

Between an abrasive encounter with a wife-abusing meth user and a media appearance, Kate takes refuge in an unused interview suite to express her breast milk before hiding the product in the back of the fridge “to satisfy her curiosity and disgust.” distract. colleagues”. Being a woman in a hostile and competitive man’s world has never been easier, but being a nursing mother definitely raises the bar.

It also doesn’t help that Kate’s obnoxious boss only seems to like her for ticking the diversity box. Not only is Kate a rare female detective, but thanks to her Sri Lankan heritage, she is also a woman of color. The race angle is quietly underexposed in a crime novel centered on motherhood, babies and family.

The action begins with a nasty case of domestic violence before Kate is called in to assist in the disappearance of a four-month-old baby girl while the mother was showering. Kate’s empathy for both women is immediate. With two children of her own, she can’t imagine anything worse than what they went through. She’s a good cop.

But Kate also knows that her colleagues are keen on her failing and that she will have to prove herself again. To add to the pressure, she worries that her father, an ex-police chief and the lover of a former attorney general, may be involved in shady financial dealings.


As in best practices, everything is precarious. Stay-at-home husband Geoff’s freelance architecture firm is not doing well, and he is both concerned and resentful about Kate’s return to work so soon after their daughter’s birth. Kate justifies this by stating they need the money, but also realizes she’s addicted to ‘the buzz’ of police work – even if it puts her life in danger.

While Taken touches on sensitive social fault lines, above all it is a visceral evocation of how difficult it can be for ambitious women to succeed in a career in which they are doomed to fail because of their gender. Still.

Female detective? The odds are criminally stacked against you

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