by Louise Milligan

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2024

Publisher’s blurb

She wonders if they have discovered her missing yet. Has it broken in the news? Who has been assigned to cover her story? Have they started spooling through her social media and pulling out photographs? Constructing a narrative about who she is and what possible reason any person has to kidnap or (let’s be frank) kill her? She tries not to let out the whimper that’s building in her sternum, at the thought that he might. Kill her, that is. He might kill her.

Kate Delaney has made the biggest mistake of her life. She picked the wrong guy to humiliate on a girls’ night out and now she is living every woman’s worst nightmare. Kate finds herself brutalised, bound and gagged in the back of a car being driven god knows where by a man whose name she doesn’t know, and she is petrified about what’s in store for her.

As a journalist who is haunted by the crimes she’s had to report over her career, Kate is terrifyingly familiar with the statistics about women who go missing—and the fear and trauma behind the headlines. She knows only too well how those stories usually end.

Kate can only hope the police will find her before it’s too late, but she’s aware a random crime is hardest to solve. As the clock ticks down, she tries to keep herself sane by thinking about her beloved boyfriend and friends, escaping into memories of love and happy times together. She knows she cannot give way to despair.

As the suspense escalates, Kate’s boyfriend Liam is left behind, struggling with his shock, fear and desperation as the police establish a major investigation. The detectives face their own feelings of anguish and futility as they reflect on the cases they didn’t solve in time and the victims they couldn’t save. They know Kate’s chances of survival diminish with every passing hour.


by Karin Kos

Witty, suspenseful, and compelling. Louise Milligan brings a fresh perspective to crime fiction, with characters that challenge readers to question the victim and perpetrator stereotypes society has come to expect. This novel is difficult to put down, as it is easy to become lost in the fate of the abducted protagonist Kate Delaney, the investigative journalist who knows the lengths criminals are willing to go. 

Through her “gallows humour” and laconic dialogue, Milligan deftly explores the complexity of crimes that do not fit within predictable boundaries, and she exposes many facets of a society that doesn’t realise women can still be vulnerable to men who lack dignity. From the clueless kidnapper – who finds himself in a precarious situation with a woman he only wanted to punish, to the people who truly want to save Kate, the author created characters that are very human and flawed; and developed them with a prose that is truly engaging. 

Exploring the trauma experienced by police and igniting a sense of empathy for more than just her kidnapping victim, Milligan shows how tragedy and trauma is experienced by everyone. This very humanitarian view gives reflection to the human psyche and the way different people deal with fear, pain, and ultimately loss. The contrasts this with a nuanced discussion about people who take no responsibility for their capacity to heal, via their overreliance on religion. 

By drawing on the reader’s understanding of a society that still attempts to rationalise crimes against women, she poses that masculinity can be precarious and ill-defined by some men. That their easily emasculated view of themselves is the foundation of their callous treatment of women. She draws attention to situations when women have had enough of male objectification and defend themselves, and the way some men don’t understand that their retaliating behaviour is inappropriate. 

Equally, Milligan refuses to offer a narrow view of masculinity; juxtaposing the nameless perpetrator with Kate’s multi-faceted boyfriend Liam Carroll and detective Peter D’Ambrosio who “was swallowing a cocktail of psych pills just to get to sleep”. These characters are well-developed and offer depth and balance. Contrasted with Kate’s best friend, Filipina Sylvia Estrellita, in her audacious gold cowboy boots and her haughty fashionista style, her loyalty and friendship create a dynamic that feels both whacky and heartfelt.

Kate Delaney isn’t portrayed as just a terrified victim. Her “gallows humour will be Kate Delaney’s friend throughout this terrible journey. Kate Delaney will not go mad.” Kate’s mantra becomes almost symbolic of the author’s own need to make sense of a world where her real-life experiences as an investigative journalist, covering high-profile criminal cases in the Australian media, have driven her down some dark introspective paths. Maybe seeking catharsis through her efforts to save Kate. Milligan asks her reader to consider “what if we could save her?” and “what if she did not die?” She challenges the reader to think about how female victims are portrayed in crime fiction. Not just a convenient kick-off point for the story, instead they are women who have passion and agency, not shying from conflict or narrow-minded norms. 

The author knows how to deeply entertain and challenge her audience. She uses her knowledge of true crime as a fictional rebuke to those men that allow women in our society to be undervalued. A thought-provoking and beautifully told story.