Tipping Point (Dinuka McKenzie) – book review

Dinuka McKenzie’s police detective Kate Miles is back for the third time in Tipping Point, and once again her family and community connections are central to the story. Miles was introduced in McKenzie’s award winning debut The Torrent and returned in Taken. This third book in the series could be the last if for no other reason than it has potentially exhausted all of Kate’s family issues and has put her on a different course.

After a brief (and reasonably irrelevant) cold open, Tipping Point starts with Kate’s brother Luke being fired from his job and escorted off the premises. Luke keeps this piece of information to himself when he returns to his home town of Esserton to attend the funeral of Anthony Reed, one of his two close schoolfriends. Anthony committed to suicide in Brisbane but his father thinks that there was more to it and asks Kate to call in some favours and look into the case. Not long after his return Luke is once again falling out with his family, getting into fights at the local pub and the third member of his school group, Marcus, dies in what at first appears to be a suicide. Luke is in the frame for Marcus’s death and as a result Kate is sidelined from the case.

While there are some point of view chapters from Luke’s perspective and some “Then” labelled backstory chapters, Kate Miles is once again the centre of this book. Loyal to her colleagues but challenged when not only a new commander arrives but her old sparring partner Josh is brought back to Esserton to work the case involving her brother. At the same time as wanting to solve the case, Kate is trying to protect Luke, mend the relationship between Luke and their father, and support her own young family. Kate once again comes across as a tenacious, compassionate, intuitive detective who slowly works her way to the solution of the case although long after astute readers will have worked it out (she does get a bit distracted by other events).

Tipping Point is another great entry in this Australian rural crime fiction series. McKenzie deals with a number of topical issues – revenge porn, sexual abuse, police overreach, victims’ compensation – but never didactically. The issues drive the actions of the characters who are, for the most part, believable and engaging in their own right. Whether Kate Miles returns or McKenzie chooses to give her a rest and deliver something else, Tipping Point once again demonstrates that she is firmly established on the Australian crime fiction scene.

Robert Goodman
For more of Robert’s reviews, visit his blog Pile By the Bed

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