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The Taken: A Hazel Micallef Mystery    by Inger Ash Wolfe order for
by Inger Ash Wolfe
Order:  USA  Can
McClelland & Stewart, 2009 (2009)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I first encountered sixty-something Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef (acting chief for the last six years of the Port Dundas police in Ontario, Canada) in The Calling. I enjoyed spending time with the indomitable Hazel very much - she's good at what she does and doesn't let age - or increasing infirmity - get in the way.

Previously, the divorced Hazel shared a home with her spry eighty-seven year old mother Emily (the town's ex-mayor). But back surgery needed after she confronted a serial killer up close and personal in The Calling has left her recuperating at her ex's home (an unenviable situation) as this story opens. Just as Hazel begins to get back on her feet again - and as the political trials of small town policing heat up - a killer lays out a trail of gruesome clues and puzzles for Hazel to follow (including fiction serialized in the local paper), that leads to a tortured victim, disturbing glimpses of whom are shown to the police on an Internet camera.

It all begins with a corpse dragged out of a lake, that turns out to be a mannequin, the first step in a tortuous scheme for revenge. And Hazel has other problems to cope with. She's become addicted to the pain killers she's been taking since her surgery, and her Toronto CO, 'Stalin with a surfboard', considers her a police dinosaur. Nevertheless, Hazel focuses on the case. She embroils her ex Andrew (who is an excellent puzzle solver) in the hunt, which takes them to metropolitan Toronto, where Hazel's meddling makes her an enemy of Superintendant Ilunga.

DC James Wingate (a gay cop who moved to Port Dundas from big city policing) had been in charge in Hazel's absence and has some difficulty adjustuing again to her maverick ways, but he always has ber back. Readers learn more of James' tragic past in The Taken. Though the novel's pace is at first slow and steady, it speeds up dramatically towards the end, which involves the aging Detective Inspector in a shoot-out from a helicopter. Along the way she reconciles with Andrew and even develops a degree of friendship with his new wife.

This is a very unusual series, a police procedural with a unique heroine and a vein of horror running through its episodes. I'm hooked on Hazel Micallef and look forward to following another of her cases soon.

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