The Toy Taker
A novel by Luke Delaney
Book review by Jules Brenner
Harper, released 7/3/15, 464 pp., $13.97
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Readers of police-involved crime thrillers will be very familiar with the trope of a difficult relationship between a squad detective and his (or her) ranking superior(s) in so much genre fiction. You know -- the detective who tends to do things that are outside policy and/or the law, or the chief who is constantly haranguing his gumshoe to solve the case because his promotion is pending or he wants to run for mayor.

The relationship is used as a dramatic device and hard for writers of cop squad mysteries striving for conflict to avoid. Unless, of course, if the author has a new variation on the theme. Author Luke Delaney does. But this British writer's originality doesn't stop with police procedures and politics. In "The Toy Taker" he presents something unique in villainy, as well.

DI Sean Corrigan runs the suburban station in Peckham, at a distance from the critical eyes of London's Scotland Yard. But, that doesn't mean that the brass at that storied institution aren't aware of his record rate of closing cases with unusual agility. Something to do with his ability to visualize and "think" like the predator with understanding and intuition. It may sound like mumbo-jumbo but it's been working.

Which is what matters to Assistant Commissioner Addis who wants to share some of the credit for what his star achiever can do where the crime rate is higher. Addis orders Corrigan to move his team to where the political fallout of successfully solved cases will sprinkle the management with political stardust: The Yard, where they'll be known as "The Special Investigations Unit."

Corrigan's number one assistant detective, officer Dave Donnelly, (an ornery cop I wanted to see suspended) leads the chorus of groans in his gruff way as the squad room fills with complaints.

But, inconvenience and adjustment is minor compared to what happens when they arrive at their new digs. Before the unit has a chance to plug in their computers or make their coffees, some psycho with uncanny skills has not only taken a toy, as the title implies, he's kidnapped the owner of the toy: a four-year old boy named George Bridgeman -- from George's upper story bedroom in the middle of the night while the family slept. Gone willingly; making no sound, no cry for help. And, in the morning, the front door -- the only entryway -- locked.

Since Delaney takes us into the mind of this snatch artist, we get to know parts of the how and why before Corrigan does, and a hint of why the Inspector can't get the kind of "reading" of a crime scene he's accustomed to. He's unable to get the hang of this monster's motivation and methodology. He's not fitting any mold Delaney's seen before.

Whatever is blocking him, it's allowing another kid to go missing and Addis to go crazy.

Delaney's concept of how such crimes might be pulled off is both very clever and cunning, and in itself worth the read. While the writing is skillful, the credibility factor isn't entirely comfortable. Still, such elements as character depth and the proposed psychopathy of a very twisted, unexpected sort of criminal... it all makes for inventive fiction.

On balance, therefore. Delaney gets credit for originality and my desire to check out what he's going to come up with next.

If you don't yet own The Toy Taker and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.