Traced, Catherine Jinks

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Jane McDonald has been working as a contract tracer in Sydney's western suburbs, during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Contact tracers get used to working with a huge range of people and they expect to patiently work through all sorts of issues, making sure that everyone keeps themselves, and the community safe during this very unusual time. But it's hard not to get involved, and Jane is really concerned when a close contact of somebody with the virus is hysterical and terrified of what her fiance's reaction will be when it's revealed she's been in contact with her own cousin, who has now tested positive.

There's enough in that scenario to set alarms bells ringing for most people, but Jane's concerns become dread when she discovers the name of the man. Griffin Clynch is the man that terrorised Jane and her daughter Tara. The man that forced them to disappear, change their names and their lives; the man they've been frightened would find them ever since. For the purposes of this review I'm using the new names of both of these women (Jane was Jeanette / Tara was Courtney) - the book uses their real and adopted names as the timeline changes. 

The story moves between the current timeline which includes Jane's concern for her contact, arranging for refuge and help, and trying to ensure she's safe; all the while dealing with her own terror of what will happen if Griffin finds her, and through her, Tara. The other timeline is the past, as Jane watches Tara fall under the control of a man that she's well aware is dangerous, right from the outset. The way that Clynch manipulates Tara, setting Jane up as the problem here is sobering. The wedge that he's able to push between a single mother and her daughter, who up until that stage had a close and loving relationship is extremely sobering, as is the control he's able to assert over a girl who you would think would have just the support she needed to break away from such a man. 

TRACED is a fascinating combination of tension, anxiety, fear, education and illumination. The main focus is on Jane and the lengths that she takes to protect Tara, her new family, and herself and her friends from Clynch. A man, it turns out, with history. Interestingly it also is a tale of how and why so many victims of domestic abuse are reluctant to report to the police, the casual manner in which information can be revealed to the prepetrator and the sheer lengths those perpetrators will go to "get even" with somebody who has managed to escape their control.

There's a real sense of helplessness about the idea that they had gone to hell and back getting out from under Clynch's control, only to find themselves in danger of being right back there again - simply because Clynch is seemingly able to continue with his behaviour unchecked. He'd done it before Tara and he's obviously at it again with his current fiance. That idea that you can go from being a close family unit, to a victim and in fear so quickly, all because of one other sick human being draws a picture of unbelieveable despair and hopelessness. Only Jane is made of sterner stuff than that, and when push comes to shove, she's outsmarted Clynch once before, and with the help of a friend, she's willing to try again. 

Beautifully paced, with a central character that leans out from the page, daring you to feel her pain, frustration, panic, fear and resolve, TRACED is a novel that shows the reader what it feels like to be afraid, and what protecting the ones you love the most in the world will drive you to do.

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Jane is a contact tracer. She has to call a lot of people and some of them don’t want to talk. Various reasons—tax or immigration issues, infidelity. Domestic abuse.

Jane knows all about that. She and her daughter Tara have spent years in hiding from Tara’s manipulative and terrifying ex. Now, as Jane talks to a close contact, she realises the woman on the phone is scared of the same man—and he’s close. Too close.

Suddenly the past comes slamming back into the present as Jane realises she and Tara can’t keep running forever.

One day, they’re going to be found.

Review Traced, Catherine Jinks
Karen Chisholm
Friday, July 28, 2023

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