Why You Were Taken is the first in the When Tomorrow Calls Series by JT Lawrence. Set in South Africa in the near future (2021) in a world with some quite advanced tech for a world that’s only 4 years away—algae powered street lights, biomorphic buildings, and locket cameras for example. It’s not a dystopian future, but one plagued by undrinkable tap water, limited water in general, electricity blackouts, a soaring suicide rate, few personal cars, and a mostly infertile population. Personally I would have given it another 10 years, at least, to let the world get to the point of human cloning and 3D printing of a human baby, but once you get into the book, whether it’s set 4 years in the future or 20 doesn’t matter that much because it’s fiction.
The book is labelled as a ‘dark cinematic thriller’. It’s certainly a thriller—the story is basically about someone trying to escape someone who’s intent on murdering them—and it is dark in terms of the murderous intent and lack of empathy of the bad guys, a fairly dim view of the near future, no humour, and a pretty brutal ending. Nevertheless I did enjoy it. I didn’t find the vivid, active descriptions and vast vistas I would expect from a book labelled cinematic, though. Perhaps the author thought her use of the present tense made it cinematic, but it doesn’t; it does, however, give the book an edgy quality.
It took me a while to get an idea of where the book was going, but it’s well-written and edited and has enough tension in the writing that I kept reading until the story and the mystery of the list of numbers began to reveal itself. A crazy woman approaches Kirsten with a key and a warning that someone wants to kill her. When the woman is found dead, Kirsten pays attention—maybe the woman wasn’t as crazy as she thought. The key leads to a list of numbers, which leads to Kirsten realising that the woman was right, someone does want her dead. The questions of who and why take up the rest of the story, and the answer when finally revealed is unexpected.
Like all good thrillers the pace and tension ramp up as the book progresses, and the book is hard to put down near the end. The characters are well-drawn, complex and easy to relate to. It’s an enjoyable story with depth in its themes of corporate control and ethics.
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