Last year, Candice Fox teamed up with international best-selling author, James Patterson, on the action-packed outback thriller, Never Never. Now she’s back with a new solo crime series, set in the tropics of far north croc country. Such is fan’s anticipation of her new novel, Crimson Lake, that it’s hit number three on iTunes on pre-orders alone.
Crimson Lake, just outside of Cairns, is the type of map blip people go to hide. That’s certainly why former police officer, Ted Conkaffey, is there. Charged with horrendous child sex crimes that were dropped mid-trial, Ted is a man on the run – from his failed marriage, his former brother-in-arms cops, and the world that has proclaimed him guilty. Existing in a self-destructive drunken haze and with no safe place to go, Ted teams up with local PI and convicted killer, Amanda Pharrell.
Amanda lives by a bunch of rules, number one of which is that Ted is never to talk about her case. She’s confessed to stabbing her classmate to death outside a party at Kissing Point, and she’s done her time. Now the tattoo covered eccentric is getting on with life, as should Ted.
But as the two team-up to investigate the disappearance of local celeb, YA writer Jake Scully, Ted begins to question what really happened at Kissing Point. Did Amanda do it, or was she framed? And why does Amanda accept Ted’s version of events about his supposed kidnap and rape of a thirteen-year-old girl, when the rest of the world wants to see him burn? As for Jake, he’s got plenty of secrets of his own, including a stalker or two.
Churning with a roiling undercurrent of danger and the ever-present claustrophobic heat of the top end, then throw in barking crocodiles, pythons in roof beams and the characters themselves, and Crimson Lake is a frighteningly compulsive read. There were many a night when this reviewer stayed awake for ‘just one more chapter’ until well after midnight because I had to know what was going to happen next. One reason for this is that Crimson Lake is not your average crime thriller. The masterful Ms Fox has demonstrated her story-telling prowess by writing a novel with not one, but three, separate mystery plots. There’s the mystery of Ted’s apparent crimes, of Amanda’s, and the mystery they’re working together to solve. The result is a high-tension plot that rarely lets up.
On top of that, Crimson Lake poses topical and unsettling questions about the nature of guilt and the phenomenon of trial by media, both social and traditional. It also examines the nature of life as a celebrity writer, something Ms Fox is more than qualified to write about, and the type of threatening, unwanted attention that can bring.
There’s so much masterfully packed into this novel that it’s difficult to unpick it all. The setting is distinctly Australia, the plot is intricate and fast-paced, and the characters sympathetic and scary by equal measures. One thing is certain, you’ll be unsure who to trust and on tenterhooks until the last page but, oh, what a ride!
Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: January 2017
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook