Tipping Point by Dinuka McKenzie and To The River by Vikki Wakefield

Tipping Point
Dinuka McKenzie
HarperCollins, $32.99

To The River
Vikki Wakefield
Text, $34.99

Detective Kate Miles has a lot on her plate, most of it served up by her family. Her brother Luke has just been sacked from his well-paid job in Sydney; he’s at loggerheads with their father, who has recently come out; and Kate’s architect husband is increasingly unhappy in his role as house husband looking after the kids. As if that wasn’t enough, Kate now has to deal with the death of one of Luke’s former high school best friends. Suicide it probably isn’t.

Dinuka McKenzie’s female detective makes a change from the trope of an unhappily divorced middle-aged detective drinking himself to death.

Dinuka McKenzie’s female detective makes a change from the trope of an unhappily divorced middle-aged detective drinking himself to death.Credit: Emma Stergio

Welcome to Dinuka McKenzie’s third police procedural in which the domestic life of her female detective once again takes centre stage. In the first of the series, The Torrent, Kate was heavily pregnant with her second child; in Taken she was navigating breast-feeding, while in Tipping Point she’s trying to hold her extended family together as she endeavours to be a good cop.

The police procedural has come a long way since the trope du jour was the unhappily divorced middle-aged detective drinking himself to death while aggravating his superiors.

Although the married, child-wrangling Kate marks a welcome departure from that tired fiction, McKenzie never loses sight of the problematic gender politics still at play. The senior officers under whom Kate serves are all male and she is constantly aware that she will be judged by different standards.

Nevertheless, Kate has the inside running on this case given she grew up in the fictional town of Esserton in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Another of her brother’s now dead friends invited her to the Year 10 formal. Kate knows and understands these people.

As is usual, but handled deftly, there are crimes in the past underpinning the crimes in the present. While McKenzie confidently unspools the intersecting plot lines, what impresses most are the telling details.

Kate’s “comforting cocoon” of a car “smells of old Happy Meals, spilled juice and biscuit crumbs”, while she knows that her marriage is “coloured by compromise and resentment”. Given that Kate’s career has now overshadowed that of her husband, things have indeed reached a critical tipping point and it’s nicely managed.

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