Review: The Taken by Casey Kelleher

Wednesday 5 October 2016
Title: The Taken
Author: Casey Kelleher
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 5th October 2016
Pages: 328
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon
When you’ve lost everything, you’ll do anything to survive.

Saskia Frost’s world is blown apart when her dad dies. Without any family, she’s on her own now and up to her eyeballs in her father’s debts. He owed a lot of money to some very dangerous men – Joshua and Vincent Harper. Before long, aspiring ballerina Saskia finds herself lap-dancing in a London club to survive. A club run by the infamous Harper brothers. Saskia is now their property and they’re going to make her pay every penny back.

Teenager Lena Cona has fled a cruel and controlling marriage. She arrives in England with her newborn daughter, desperately relying on strangers for help. But she soon learns that not everyone can be trusted as she finds herself caught in the clutches of Colin Jefferies, a twisted individual obsessed by his own sinister secrets. As the sickening truth is revealed, Lena is forced to fight for her life - and her baby’s.

When their worlds collide, Lena and Saskia form an unlikely friendship. But with the terrifying Harper brothers on their tail, as well as Lena’s vengeful and violent husband, can they escape with their lives?

I am a huge fan of Casey Kelleher and when I found out that she had signed with my favourite publisher Bookouture, I couldn't wait to read The Taken and it didn't disappoint. Casey tells a brutal and hard-hitting story of two very different women whose stories eventually collide to deliver a thrilling and dramatic conclusion that had my heart racing and I couldn't read my Kindle quick enough. If you are yet to discover Casey then this is the perfect place to start.

Saskia Frost's father dies and she finds out he owes thousands to villainous brothers Joshua and Vincent Harper. She becomes a stripper at one of their clubs in a naive attempt to pay off the debt and hopefully keep her father's house. Saskia was an interesting character but sadly her role in the story wasn't as big as I would have liked and I found myself wishing the book was longer so that she could have had a story beyond her role in the lives of the other characters. Similarly one of the girls she befriends at the club had the potential to also be featured more than she was. When I finished the book I was left wondering what the future had in store for Saskia and perhaps we could read about her again in another book?

Lena Cona's story is quite brutal and uncomfortable to read in places and from the outset, when we read about her forced marriage to a vile excuse for a man, it's extremely easy to root for this character and want her to eventually find some kind of happiness away from the clutches of her husband. Lena and her husband set off for England as a feud between families has threatened her husband's life. A small part of the story takes place in the 'Jungle' in Calais which is where those who eventually want to make their way over to England and seek asylum reside. Some fantastic research makes this setting easy to imagine, it is real after all, and there's one character that lives there who I was counting down the pages to see get his comeuppance and it was brilliant when it came. Lena's journey over to England is not exactly easy and her overall story is extremely thought-provoking and believable.

Our two characters lives eventually collide and as I was reading I was unsure of just how this was going to come to be, but very soon the connection is made and everything falls into place brilliantly. The only problem I had was that the story was over far too quickly for my liking and I found myself wanting more. What I especially liked was that the story wasn't simply a rehash of anything I'd read before. The gangland genre can get quite repetitive after a while and whilst other authors have centred stories around human trafficking and illegal immigrants, I felt that this was a fresh and relevant take on things and Casey manages to create a real thought-provoking book with characters that you will think about long after finishing the book, and it also has characters you will well and truly despise as some of the villains in this book are worst I have ever read about.

There's so much I want to say about the story itself but you really have to read it to discover it for yourself. The blurb gives away perhaps more than it should and I have got quite a strong stomach and quite a vivid imagination but one of the characters in this book and the life they live is just nowhere near anything that I could have come up with. At times I found myself wondering what the point of this character was, or why his sickening story even needed to be told, but then more things start to connect and it results in a truly brilliant finale. The whole thing really could have been quite silly in the hands of another author, the characters do tend to find themselves in the right place at the right time (or wrong time depending on how you look at it) but storylines do tend to be contrived in that way and the ending was extremely chilling and at times rather uncomfortable. I have to say for one character it was also a tiny bit emotional to read too, because I was so invested in their story by the end of the book.

As said earlier, if you are yet to discover Casey's books then this is a brilliant place to start. Next time around I would like to see a longer read, but I think whenever you read a book by an author who you just love then you'll always be left wishing the story went on forever. I just hope that the wait for more isn't too long as I am already getting impatient.

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