Dear Reader: a letter from Alice Clark-Platts
The Taken is a book which deals with dark motivations and secrets and the hidden skeletons that lurk in many family cupboards. It also looks at the contradictions which often exist between a public façade and the reality beneath.
I live and write in Singapore. I do it every day, sitting at my kitchen table in front of my laptop, with miner birds screeching in the palm trees outside and the chirrup of cicadas as a frequent tropical storm approaches. Writing The Taken took me away from all of that. Instead my mind travelled to dank and rain-swept Durham and a case which pushes Detective Inspector Erica Martin to her limit.
Pastor Tristan Snow is a man of gigantic ego and suspicious motives. Yet he has qualities which draw people to him. He is the life of the party, the epicentre of so many people’s lives. Deep down though, he is a bully and an abuser, a man who manipulates those around to him to do his behest.
My idea with The Taken was to imagine what it would be like to live with such a man. Not only the man who you loved, but one who you felt had saved you, that you had given everything up for; that without him, you would have nothing. Just as in the play by Euripides when Medea abandons her family out of loyalty to Jason, so Sera Snow does the same with her husband Tristan, taking on the mantle of his fame and celebrity albeit knowing that the man who lies beneath is a monster.
DI Martin knows that Tristan Snow is culpable of many crimes. As she investigates, she sees that his public persona is far removed from the truth. Nevertheless, his murderer must be called to account and as the layers of mistruths and lies are slowly peeled back, Martin discovers a family steeped in despair and fear.
Several of the scenes in the novel were hard to write. As a mother of two daughters, imagining violence and abuse of children is extraordinarily difficult. That is when living in Singapore is a blessing and a walk in the Botanical Gardens or a cold drink under a sun umbrella helps to wash away the images my brain has conjured up.
At the conclusion of The Taken, there is relief for Martin and for some of the victims of Tristan Snow. But the violence he instilled in his family remains, as I believe it does in many instances of domestic bullying and abuse. From now on, in her life, Sera Snow must make her own way, without her protector. But can she be redeemed? Can she live a full and decent life or has she been too damaged by her past and her choices? I suspect the latter but I leave it to the reader to make your own decisions.
For now though, you’ll find me under my sun umbrella dreaming up new dark and twisted plots far away from this tropical island.