Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Australian crime fiction is experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to a handful of fresh female voices. Jane Harper’s The Dry was 2016’s darling and rightfully so — I called it “the year’s best achievement on the Australian crime writing scene” in my review, and named it my Book of the Year — and in 2015 I was absolutely blown away by Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay: “stripped-down and raw, and packs one helluva punch.” And then, of course, there’s Candice Fox, who has carved out a distinctive square on the map of contemporary crime writing with her Bennett / Archer trilogy (Hades, Eden and Fall), and  who ranks as one of my absolute favourite authors. Perhaps it’s too early to predict 2017’s Aussie crime fiction blockbuster, but one thing is for certain: Candice Fox’s Crimson Lake will feature in the conversation.

Crimson Lake introduces former Sydney-based police detective Ted Conkaffey, who was accused, but not convicted, of abducting a 13-year-old girl. But the accusation is enough. To his wife, his peers, and the general public, a lack of conviction isn’t proof of innocence, just evidence of a lack of proof. Ted is an outcast. The life he had is over, and so he flees Sydney to Cairns: specifically the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake. There he meets Amanda Pharrell — an accused and convicted murderer now operating as a private detective — and partners with her to investigate the disappearance of local author Jake Scully.

Veteran Fox readers will notice some thematic similarities between Crimson Lake and her Bennett / Archer trilogy. She is the absolute master of the enigmatic protagonist: characters with deep, dark secrets, who readers will follow and support, but with occasional hesitancy; because what if the worst is true? What if we’re  actually cheering on a killer in Amanda Pharrell? And Ted — our narrator — what if he’s hiding the truth from us? What if he is guilty of abducting the girl, and leading readers astray? We’re never quite certain — not totally — until the novel’s very end of how trustworthy and reliable Ted and Amanda are, which makes Crimson Lake incredibly compelling and propulsive.

Candice Fox’s prodigious ability to keep coming up with unforgettable characters elevates Crimson Lake beyond the standard police procedurals that proliferate the genre. Oh sure, Ted and Amanda’s investigation into Jake Scully’s disappearance is effectively handled — plenty of twists and red-herrings, and a heart-stopping climax to satisfy plot-focused readers — but it’s their uneasy comradeship, and their secrets which threaten to bubble to the surface, that make the novel a blast. It boasts Fox’s signature style, edge and humour to delight established fans, and will surely win new ones, too.

One of the best Australian crime writers just levelled up. If you haven’t jumped on the Candice Fox bandwagon, now’s the time. Crimson Lake will be one of 2017’s best crime novels, and Candice Fox has quickly established herself as one of our finest talents operating in the genre. That’s not hyperbole. It’s fact. Read Crimson Lake — you’ll see.

Buy the book here…

Aussie New Releases To Look Forward To

There are several books by Australian authors being published in the last six months of the year that I’m really looking forward to, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is already out, and it’s Kate Forsyth‘s Dancing With Knives.  Set on a farm outside Narooma in NSW, Dancing With Knives is a rural murder mystery and a story about love and family secrets.

Rebecca James (author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage) is gearing up for the launch of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead in early October.  Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a psychological thriller centred around the death of Cooper Bartholomew, and his group of friends, one of which is keeping a dangerous secret.

Kate Morton (author of The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper) is releasing her fifth novel in October this year and I’m so excited about it.  Untitled and simply called Book 5 for now, we don’t know what’s it’s about yet, but given she’s one of my favourite Australian authors, I’m sure it’s going to be a delicious page-turner.Matthew Reilly book cover The Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is releasing a block-buster action monster-movie of a novel (his words) called The Great Zoo of China on 10 November.  China has discovered a new species of animal and is preparing to unveil their amazing find in the form of the largest zoo in human history.  The Chinese re-assure a media contingent invited to tour the zoo that it’s perfectly safe; however if Matthew Reilly is involved, you know that nothing’s ever safe.  You can click here to watch a short video of Matthew Reilly telling us about The Great Zoo of China, or pre-order it now and receive 30% off.

Candice Fox (author of Hades) featured here on the blog in January this year, and her latest book in the Bennett/Archer series Eden, is due out later this year.  Click here to read the Player Profile with Candice conducted by Jon Page.

Australian music personality Molly Meldrum has written a memoir called The Never Ever Ending Story, and is said to contain plenty of stories about some of the many rock and pop stars he interviewed throughout his career.  The Never Ever Ending Story is due to be released in November.

Another iconic member of the Australian music industry has to be John Williamson.  In the aptly named Hey, True Blue, John Williamson takes readers through his life story and his success as a singer.

So, that’s it from me, but what new Australian books are you looking forward to?

Player Profile: Candice Fox, author of Hades

24548-059Candice Fox, author of Hades

Tell us about your latest creation:

Hades is Book One of the Bennett/Archer series, and is available December(ish) 2013 with Random House. Hades Archer, the man they call the Lord of the Underworld, surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies they want disposed of become his problem – for a fee. One night, a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants ‘lost’. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything. Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there’s something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can’t quite put his finger on. Frank is now on the hunt for a very different kind of serial killer: one who offers the sick and dying hope at murderous cost. At first, his partner’s sharp instincts come in handy. Soon, he’s wondering if she’s as dangerous as the man they’re after.

9780857981172Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I grew up in Bankstown, but I’m now an Eastern Beaches girl. My family have been Eastern suburbs people from way back, and while I’m not a beach bum myself I do enjoy running, writing and drinking chilled wine alongside it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I’ve wanted to be everything you can imagine. At fourteen, I was determined to be a tattoo artist. I got my solo pilot’s license for a Cessna 150 at 16 and told everyone I was going to teach people to fly. I spent my late teens managing restaurants and bars and joined the navy at 18. So on the job front I’ve been around. But that was employment, and I’ve never considered writing possible employment. I’ve been writing and telling stories from a very young age and have used it at different times to actively create my own person, to escape from my chaotic world or to develop my skills in the hope of showing people into my little universes. It’s always been more of an instinct than a desire to be paid.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

I consider HADES my best work – thus far. I wrote four other novels before HADES that together accumulated 200 rejection letters, so I suppose HADES has been the only thing to break through into the public domain and I am proud of it for that. I am determined to improve as a writer and am excited to go on exploring my own tastes and interests, so I don’t have any plans for HADES to remain my best.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

My office is trashtastic. And it’s a part of the living room. So things fall over in it all the time and it’s constantly invaded by episodes of Dr Phil. It’s littered with water bottles and coffee cups and books and scraps of paper. The desk chair is covered in cat hair and you can hear the main road from it. But a more beautiful or ordered place isn’t available to me, and I don’t think it would help the work even if it was. When I was a kid, I shared my family home with five of my siblings and at times half a dozen of Sydney’s most dangerous and disadvantaged children, so noise was something I learnt to deal with. When I want to get out of here I wander down to a variety of busy beachside cafes and make a mess of the tables there. Watch people, insert them into the text. I think you have to go exploring now and then to keep the work fresh. People are far more unpredictable and complex than you imagine, and you only learn how by being among them as you write.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

Tragically at the moment I’m unable to read anything other than what’s necessary for my PhD, but I’ve been a big crime reader for many years. I’m a dedicated Peter Temple fan and have learnt much from him about masculinity and beauty and sorrow in the lives of cops.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

I grew up rummaging through my mother’s true crime collection while my friends were reading Goosebumps and the Chronicles of Narnia. There were scarce funds in our house for children’s literature so you read what you could get. I was a big newspaper reader.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I’d be Joe Cashin from Peter Temple’s ‘The Broken Shore’. When I was younger and more emotional I would have said Anne Rice’s Lestat DeLioncourt, but I don’t want to live forever.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I run. I’m a big of a fitness junkie at the moment but I’m sure it won’t last long. One of my favourite things to do is go to dinner with a loved one, drink and eat too much and fall into deep and philosophical conversations. Surprise you? Every now and then when the mood strikes me I strap some kind of funny hat to my cat and photograph him. Share these on Facebook with witty captions. I like to throw the ball for my dog at the local park. Lie around in the sunshine.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I suppose the proper measure would be my last meal. Salami/anchovy pizza, and a bottle of nice Merlot.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I don’t have a particular hero in mind. I believe as a society we’ve spent a bit of time normalising the idea that you should be considered a hero because of your place in the limelight, your celebrity, your grandiose achievements. I was watching one of those medical reality TV shows the other night and watched a guy stitch up some assault victim’s heart while it was still beating. I didn’t even catch the doctor’s name. He’ll win no award for it. I have a supreme respect for law enforcement and medical professionals.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The competition of other forms of entertainment. It is getting extremely difficult to be bored at any given time any more. Riding the bus is becoming an orchestrated audio/visual experience. I’m concerned the humble book might get pushed aside by effortless and endlessly diverse hand-held and mobile entertainment.

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