Review: When a submerged mannequin — initially mistaken as a dead body — is discovered at a popular fishing location, Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef doesn't think a crime has been committed … until she learns its existence is tied to a crime playing out in slow motion on the internet in The Taken, the second mystery in this series by Inger Ash Wolfe.
In tracking down the origin of the mannequin, what is thought to be a serial number is, in fact, an IP address, linked anonymously to a webcam that shows a man tied to a chair in a dimly lit room. Hazel still isn't convinced a crime has been committed, that it may be an elaborate hoax of some sort, but the storyline of a fictional murder mystery being serialized by the local paper piques her interest, as it has some remarkable similarities to the case. When the webcam shows someone with a knife approaching the man, and a day later a man's severed hand is delivered, gift-wrapped, to Hazel's office, she realizes the man's life is in her hands — if only she can figure out the meaning of the clues being given to her by his captor.
The Taken is a remarkable mystery in the way the cleverly crafted plot unfolds. "Hazel disliked the sense that someone else was in control here, was doling out the information at a pace that suited them. The case was like a dark wave forming in the distance and they couldn't be sure when it would crash at their feet." The man's captor leads Hazel and her partner, Detective Constable James Wingate, through a maze of clues that seem to suggest the crime they're investigating is not the current one of a man being held captive, rather, it's a cold case homicide. But then Hazel realizes this isn't true either. "It's not a murder, James. That's why we've been deputized [by the captor]. We're investigating a murder, but whatever it was in 2002, that's not how it was ruled. You get it? It was something else."
Despite a few minor drawbacks — the somewhat slow start involving Hazel's recovery from back surgery is unnecessarily long and, in the end, not terribly relevant; and the politics and territorial disputes between the provincial and city police departments seem awkwardly handled — the unexpected and surprising twists and turns the plot takes as her investigation moves forward will keep readers guessing as to what crime Hazel is trying to solve … and who is ultimately responsible.
Acknowledgment: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided a copy of The Taken for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Taken: Toronto, Ontario
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The Taken by Inger Ash Wolfe — A Hazel Micallef Mystery
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 2010
List Price: $25.00