Review: The Taken / Author: Vicki Pettersson / Publisher: Harper Voyager / Release Date: Out Now
Noir is a genre that has an underrepresentation in the last few years, or should that be it is a genre that hasn’t caught the attention of this reviewer for a long time? I don’t know, but what stuck out for me about The Taken was its author Vicki Pettersson; her name alone and her previous background as a burlesque dancer screamed out at me that she was practically a noir character herself and could potentially bring the reader into her world. So I thought I would give The Taken a chance.
The story follows Griffin Shaw, former (living) investigator turned angel now responsible for seeing the deceased into the Everlast, as it is referred to in the book. However, his latest assignment to collect the soul of journalist Kit Craig leads Shaw to make a decision that could uncover his own murder and avenge the murder of his lost wife amidst a web of intrigue and murder.
What hooked me into The Taken as a reader is its dark humour, as epitomised by Griffin Shaw; he has accepted his angelic role and isn’t afraid to correct the age of his latest collection when she insists she is twenty-six (as if that’s the least of her problems!) Pettersson’s use of this humour snaps the reader out of the police procedure that could have been expected from the noir-ish cliché of the detective entering the scene of the crime, and you are reminded that this is something different. Meanwhile, another amusing feature of Pettersson’s writing style is she’s not afraid to make tongue in cheek meta-references to the genre that she is writing for; in the first chapter, as Shaw is referred to as ‘washed out’ and ‘B-movie’ this sets up the reader to expect the intricacies, absurdities and misogyny that come with the noir genre without becoming cliché. Finally, bold colours are peppered throughout the book’s description which is something so simple in order to remove the cliché of seeing the story through a black-and-white tinted perspective, as you would expect from the noir genre’s film adaptations.
The only real flaw for me, and this is a purely personal preference, is that The Taken over-complicates itself when trying to tell its story. It has taken a very specific genre and tried to gel it with fantasy elements such as Shaw being an angel, the Everlast and I found myself switching off at these points because these weren’t part of the genre I was expecting.
I really enjoyed The Taken; Pettersson clearly understands the genre for which she is writing and isn’t afraid to highlight its strengths and also let the reader in on the joke about its absurdities. However, where I was let down was I hoped it would have been more clear cut noir; more gangland as opposed to the fantastical. But again, I must emphasise, that this is a personal taste issue and didn’t stop me enjoying an extremely vivid read.