When Sydney police department sex crimes detective Harriet Blue is called into her boss’s office, she never imagined it would be to tell her that her brother is the prime suspect in the brutal murders of three women.
Shocked and in denial, Harry is transferred to Perth to avoid the media exposure this case will attract. Harry is sent into the outback – the never never – to investigate the disappearance of mine worker Danny Carter. The mining town is a seedy place, full of money and immoral ways to spend it. As Harry delves deeper into the murky lives of these miners, she finds that Danny isn’t the first to go missing.
I have endorsed the writing of Candice Fox to anyone that will listen since she released her debut crime novel, Hades back in 2014. I was pleased for Candice Fox when I read she had gained a lucrative writing partnership deal with international bestselling author James Patterson. I am hoping and I am sure Candice is too, that this new book collaboration will also draw in many new readers to her standalone works.
Never Never definitely contains many of the clear trademarks that define James Patterson’s novels. It drives at a relentless pace and is structured in the form of short chapters. The villain in the novel immediately struck me as being a typical Patterson creation, echoing characters featured in his action packed backlist of novels. The inclusion of tactical military style killing games that the particular villain in Never Never known as ‘Soldier’ engages in, also feels like a Patterson invention. However, Fox fans will be pleased with main protagonist, Detective Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue. She has definite shades of Fox’s Archer/Bennett novels. Harry is complicated, she has had a troubled background and she also has a troubled sibling, a brother who is in serious trouble with the law. The book opens as Harriet is thrust deep into the desert of Western Australia. Harry’s superiors have decided to put Harry on a mine case, in order to avoid the media storm associated with the recent arrest of her brother. Harry’s brother Sam has been charged in connection to a series of brutal murders, a charge readers learn Sam denies. Although Harry’s specialisation is in sex crimes, she is driven to solve the murders of three mine workers, with a growing tally at the mine site of Bandya. Harry teams up with a local Detective Whittacker and soon realises there is much red tape to deal with around the mine. The mine itself rejects searching its employees in connection to the murders. It also carries on business as usual, caring more about turning over profits, rather than concentrating on the welfare of its workers. As Harry and her local Detective partner get drawn further into the case, their lives are put in significant danger, as the killer amps up their killing spree.
I was keen to dive into Never Never as soon as I came home from an author event given by Candice Fox. Understanding more about how the world’s bestselling author collaborates with an up and coming Australian crime writer, was really interesting to discover. With my new set of eyes on Never Never, I went into novel with a sense of excitement and on the whole I was pleased. What pleased me the most was the characterisation, particularly of the main protagonist Harry. She easily reflects shades of Fox’s characters from her Hades/Eden/Fall books. When I heard Fox’s life story at the author event, it is clear she has drawn from this to inform her writing and characters. I thought Harry was a compelling and strong enough main protagonist to carry along a series of novels, which I hope Patterson chooses to invest in. Harry is a great character, the book allows us to see her approach to solving crimes and her overall nature as a kick-ass female, who shouldn’t be messed with. Harry’s partner Whittacker is an interesting character, who is teamed well with the lead. There is definitely room for this character to grow as the series does. I was impressed that the decision was made to set this novel in Western Australia, where I live. On the whole, I thought the setting was captured well by Fox and Patterson. The isolation and the issues of working on a mine site were also explored well by the Patterson/Fox writing team. The pacing in this novel moves at a lighting quick speed and the short chapters result in Never Never being one of those blink- and- you –miss- it style books. Plenty of red herrings and twists kept me on my toes. The conclusion was both wrapped up neatly and delivered in a whirlwind fashion. Once I finished the novel, I felt compelled to search out a copy of bookshots; Black and Blue. This is another collaboration, only shorter, between Patterson and Fox that offers a prequel of sorts to Never Never.
Never Never is a novel that does deliver in the field of trademark thrillers. It sways more on the side of Patterson, so fans of Patterson will not be disappointed in this latest author collaboration offering. For big fans of Fox like myself, I lapped up the elements of her work that was contained in Never Never. I am hoping due to the open nature of the ending, another instalment of this writing team will be commissioned and we get more from the enigmatic Harry Blue.