The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie – Our Review
‘The Torrent’ is a fast-paced, character-driven crime novel that eschews outback noir for the humid climes of the Northern Rivers – a setting probably more familiar to most Australian readers.
In her last weeks before maternity leave, Detective Kate Miles grapples with two crimes, one current – a brutal attack in a fast-food restaurant – and one historic – the death of a popular local sportsman in a devastating flood.
It is a tribute to McKenzie’s writing that she is able to keep these two threads moving while grounding the narrative in the character of Kate Miles (think Marg Gunderson in Fargo, negotiating the criminal world while heavily pregnant).
Kate is smart, resourceful and professional, but still has to deal with male colleagues who don’t think she’s up to the job.
The strength of ‘The Torrent’ lies in McKenzie’s writing. There is not a word wasted and her rendering of setting is spot on. It’s no surprise she won the Harper Collins Australia 2020 Banjo Prize for this manuscript – or that Harper Collins have signed her on for two more Kate Miles novels. They will have a lot to live up to given the strength of this debut, but I’m sure McKenzie will be up to the task.
Review by Mark Smith (Author of The Road to Winter Trilogy and shortlisted CBCA IF Not Us, & sometimes staff member of Great Escape Books)