2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · crime · mystery · thriller

Book Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Title: Crimson Lakecrimson lake small.jpg

Author:  Candice Fox

Published: January 30th 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Books Australia

Pages: 400

Genres:  Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4.5 stars

From the award-winning author of Hades and Eden comes an ingenious and edgy suspense novel that will keep you guessing to the very last page . . .

12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one. Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.

But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move. And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My review:

Candice Fox first caught my eye in 2014, when she released her debut Australian crime novel, Hades. From that point onwards, I have found myself very taken with Fox’s work. It seems I am not alone. Fox won the 2014 Ned Kelly award for a best first novel for Hades. She backed it up a year later by winning the coveted Ned Kelly award again, this time for her second book Eden. Most recently, Fox has teamed up with none other than James Patterson, a world renowned writer in fast fiction thrillers. Crimson Lake is another addictive and murky crime thriller from Fox, marking the start of what I envisage is a new series for Fox.

The small tropical town of Crimson Lake, located in North Queensland, is the hideaway for former policeman Ted Conkaffey. Ted has recently lost everything that is important to him, his wife, child, career and most of all his reputation. It seems Ted was in the wrong place at the wrong time, which ended in him being on the receiving end of an arrest of a teenage girl who was viciously raped, attacked and left for dead. Ted is arrested and sent to jail for two years. Eventually, Ted’s case is overturned and he is released, but never acquitted from the crime. With the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of his career, a move to the secluded town of Crimson Lake seems like the best thing to do. In Crimson Lake, Ted’s lawyer introduces him to Amanda Pharrell, a woman with a background as troubled as Ted’s. Amanda is Crimson Lake’s Private Investigator. Together, Amanda and Ted form an unlikely duo and they soon become involved in investigating the disappearance of a local literary figure, at the request of his family. Ted and Amanda need to gather all the facts and evidence they can, in order to determine whether Jake Scully, the victim, met foul play or he simply chosen to slip away from public life. In investigating this case, Ted and Amanda’s backgrounds come into play, offering new possibilities for the final outcome of each of their cases.

If crime is your thing then you are in for a treat with Candice Fox’s latest, Crimson Lake. Within one compulsive novel, there are essentially three different crimes to solve. From the main character Ted’s wrongful conviction, to doubts surrounding the involvement of PI Amanda Pharrell in her friend’s murder and finally to the uncertainty over author Jake Scully’s possible suicide. Fox demonstrates her skill in being able to handle a number of crime based subplots that form one cohesive narrative. Each individual back story was as strong and compelling as the other.

The bedrock of the novel is Ted’s past and the resulting trauma he undergoes at not only being charged with the crime of a young girl’s brutal attack but also the jail time he receives and the huge loss he experiences in his personal life. Ted’s life is completely upended and Crimson Lake signals his chance at achieving a small sense of sanctuary from a world that has treated him unfairly. Fox employs flashbacks to reveal to the reader what happened that fateful day Ted was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Ted’s story is one that gleaned much sympathy from me, I really couldn’t believe how a police officer could find himself on the wrong side of the law, due to circumstantial evidence.

I liked the interplay between the characters of Amanda Pharrell and Ted once she was introduced to the fold. I found it interesting that Amanda wanted to help exonerate Ted from the charges laid against him by thoroughly investigating his case on the side, without Ted’s knowledge. In the same instance, Ted’s interest in Amanda’s past and her reluctance to give a reason as to why she killed her friend as a teenager was just as enlightening to read. Together they make a solid pair. I enjoyed their interactions with one another and how they bounced off each other. It was a reminiscent of the leads in Fox’s Archer/Bennett series and it gave me hope that Fox will be continuing the relationship of Ted and Amanda in novels to come.

Fox brings us a unique and well versed setting in Crimson Lake. The small town is dripping in tropical warmth, which oozes off the pages of this novel. This tropical hideaway is accurately brought to life, through the skilled hand of Candice Fox. I felt the very strong presence of crocodiles, who ended up becoming just as menacing as the media who descend on the small town of Crimson Lake when they discover Ted Conkaffey is using it as his private hideaway.

The crime and mystery aspect of Crimson Lake was strength in this novel. The case that binds Ted and Amanda together in unity was a clever one and gave room to the inclusion of some intriguing side characters that brought more to this strong narrative. The themes of the criminal injustice, negligence, withholding or tampering with evidence and the push to get a conviction had me quite riled up to be honest. It will certainly leave a sour taste in your mouth and make you think again about the integrity of our judicial system, despite the fact that this is a crime fiction novel!

Candice Fox demonstrates yet again she extreme pull in the Australian crime fiction field. In my opinion, Fox is the leader in the pack in terms of thrilling crime fiction, with Crimson Lake proving to be a solid addition to Fox’s work. I have everything crossed that Crimson Lake is the first book in a continuing series for Candice Fox, as there seemed to be an open ending and a sense of things remaining unresolved for the enigmatic couple.

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox was published on January 30th 2017 by Penguin Random House Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Crimson Lake, Candice Fox, visit here.


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