Author Catherine Jinks’ latest crime novel Traced (Text Publishing 2023) is a gripping, page-turning thriller told in two timelines that covers themes of family violence, abuse and stalking. This well-constructed and pacey narrative explores serious issues while maintaining spare and tight language, gritty circumstances, authentic dialogue and a building climax that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Set in very contemporary Australia during the first stages of the COVID pandemic, Jane works as a contact tracer notifying people they’ve been a close contact and advising isolation and testing. Her previous work has seen her find people for all sorts of reasons – non-payment of tax, immigration issues, infidelity, family violence. She finds people for a living. Which is ironic, because she and her daughter Tara have long been in hiding from Tara’s dangerous, manipulative and frightening ex. When Jane contacts a woman about a COVID connection, she recognises the fear in the woman’s voice; a fear of having to inform her partner that she has been in contact with anyone not approved by him. When Jane realises that this man could be the same person she and Tara have been running from, everything in her life changes. Again.

The novel then goes back and forth in time and even though the earlier sections detail how Tara first got involved with this man, her terrifying experiences with him, and how she eventually escaped with her mother’s help, even though we KNOW that she got away, these backflash sections are nevertheless entirely tense and suspenseful. The narrative flips between this and the present day, when mother and daughter realise they may have to escape from this man all over again.

Jinks tells a great story that holds the reader’s close attention on every page. Traced is also a stark reminder of how vulnerable people can become a victim to a controlling partner, and how easily it is for someone dangerous to find you if they are determined. It asks the questions how well do you really know someone? What would you give up if your life was at stake? Does the end justify the means? And can you live with guilt if it means you saved someone’s life?