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by Jacqui Rose
Avon, March 2012
371 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847563228

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When she was fifteen in 1995, Casey Edwards gave birth to a baby that her parents forced her to surrender for adoption. Since then she has tried to drink herself into oblivion, and wrecked her marriage, but finally decides to straighten out her life and find her child. She arrives in Soho with a name of a foster mother, but finds the trail cold and very quickly becomes drawn into a gangland underworld. She inadvertently discovers activities which make her a liability to two very nasty men, Alfie Jennings and Oscar Harding. Reformed gangster Vince Sadler has taken a liking to her, but whether he is willing and able to protect her is uncertain. It turns out that her child is closer than she could have imagined, but a happy ending looks very unlikely.

There are some very violent scenes in TAKEN and the three main male characters, although supposedly very different in temperament, have one thing in common in that they are all thoroughly prepared to dish out a savage beating when the occasion calls for it. Oscar enjoys violence, he finds it relieves his headaches. Alfie also does plenty but tries to avoid beating up his wife, although is often unable to resist the temptation. Vince is 'reformed' so he only gives a good kicking or cuts throats when he finds it absolutely necessary. Readers not paying close attention may find it difficult to distinguish between the three, and tend to write them all off as nightmares, and this makes it difficult to give Vince the good guy status that Rose has written for him.

The underworld society described is curiously old-fashioned in feel, the men with their secretive money-making schemes, and the women either pampered wives or 'brasses' for casual sex and generating income. Both types are shown as being subservient victims of the men in the piece with little or no ability to overcome the circumstances in which they are placed. It may be that criminal societies by nature take a more traditional view of male and female roles, but it is depressing to find women so oppressed in a book describing current events in London. Even more so given the author's indication in the biographical note at the end that TAKEN was inspired by some of her own experiences.

The world created by Rose is certainly horrible enough to create dramatic tension, and presents a challenge to see Casey and other supposedly sympathetic characters survive to the end of the book without stretching the bounds of credulity too far. Revelations as to her child represent a coincidence of almost Dickensian proportions, but such plotting devices never detracted from his popularity.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, May 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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