I have to confess I purposely avoided Never Never, the first book in this series DESPITE being a huge fan of Candice Fox’s work. Or maybe I should say BECAUSE I’m a huge fan of Fox’s writing. I’d had some bad experiences with previous James Patterson collaborations so didn’t want anything to tarnish my (not-weird) reverence of the talented Aussie storyteller.
So, I came into this second book of the series, Fifty Fifty with a few gaps in my backstory knowledge. It meant I might have had a few questions but did not take anything away from my enjoyment of this book, which I think (thankfully) has Fox’s fingerprints all over it. (And yes, I was tempted to say paw prints, cos…. well Fox… #sorrynotsorry)Fifty Fifty
by James Patterson, Candice Fox
Series: Detective Harriet Blue #2
Published by Century
on July 27th 2017
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Buy on Amazon
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 178089712X, 9780143783107
It’s not easy being a good detective – when your brother’s a serial killer.
Sam Blue stands accused of the brutal murders of three young students, their bodies dumped near the Georges River. Only one person believes he is innocent: his sister, Detective Harriet Blue. And she’s determined to prove it.
Except she’s now been banished to the outback town of Last Chance Valley (population 75), where a diary found on the roadside outlines a shocking plan – the massacre of the entire town. And the first death, shortly after Harry’s arrival, suggests the clock is already ticking.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney, a young woman holds the key to crack Sam’s case wide open.
Indeed the character of Detective Harriet Blue – her personality, attitude and voice – seem very much to be something Fox brings to the Patterson/Fox party.
Harriet’s quite similar to Eden Archer who featured in Fox’s first gritty and addictive trilogy. And it’s not just because both had untraditional upbringings and a mentor they credit with giving them focus / control, but cos they’re both ‘take no prisoners’ types and are perhaps borderline sociopathic. But in a nice way.
Although the label may be unwarranted in Harriet’s case as her erstwhile partner (Detective Edward Whittacker, aka Whitt) ponders on her ability to feel empathy, despite her unpredictable personality and the fact she’s ‘abrasive and hard to relate to’.
Readers are offered two cases for the price of one here. I gather Harriet (Harry) was sent off to ‘never never’ (or somewhere in Western Australia) in the first book of this series and although she’s back in Sydney when we first meet her it’s not long before she’s again shunted-off – this time western New South Wales to assist a local cop with the diary, which seems to be a manifesto for mass killings.
The diary includes research and assessments of several US spree killings and I wonder if the knowledge and / or interest in them came from Patterson or Fox. Interestingly, this novel reflects on the sense of the purposelessness of them (which I realise is beyond obvious to most people!) but the fact their perpetrators most likely didn’t really get the satisfaction they were wanting before taking or losing their own life.
I flipped through the diary. The only thing I could think that united the spree killers in the diary was their rage. Their desire to be punishers. p 246
And there’s a real sense of revenge and punishment about the diary and subsequent crimes in Last Chance Valley despite the presence of Elliot Kash the Federal agent who’s got a chip on his shoulder… and who’s sure everything is terrorism-related.
These young men weren’t trying to inspire people. Each of them would kill themselves after their attacks. They wanted vengeance. It wasn’t terrorism. It was payback. p 116
Meanwhile…. there’s the case involving Harry’s brother, the case she’s informally pursuing to prove her brother’s innocence and one she’s had to leave in the hands of Whitt in her absence.
I’m not sure if there was much information in the first book in this series (or the novella, Black and Blue) about the Georges River Killer. We eventually get a lot of information in this book (which kinda provides the ‘why’) and meet our perpetrator but I had a lot of questions about their exact motive, their reasoning and backstory. There also felt like some gaps in the way the crimes were perpetrated so I’m wondering if they will feature in future books, and / or there will be some unexpected twists in that storyline.
Patterson & Fox have created a wonderfully vivid and complex character in Harriet Blue. She’s prickly and unpredictable, yet likeable. The book’s written (mostly) in first person so we know what she’s thinking and how much she fears ‘wild Harriet’.
Most of my life I’d wavered over a very thin line between light and dark shades of my being. There were things in me that were frightening. How quick I was to anger. How much I liked hurting people sometimes. My mind was full of shadowy places where violent fantasies lived, sickening things that sometimes came out in my dreams. Vengeance I played out mentally against bad people from my past. Most of the time, my light half won out, and the shadows and smoke were sent recoiling to where they belonged, not completely driven out, but controlled.
But sometimes the halves collided. The score came down fifty fifty, and everyone was left guessing what I might do.
Even me. p 171
I also enjoyed Harry’s colleagues in the diary investigation – local cop Victoria Snale and federal agent Kash, as well as the (polar-opposite) partner readers met in her first novel, Whitt and his unlikely ally in this outing, Tox Barnes. (I’m not sure if cop-with-a-bad-reputation, Tox, appeared in Never Never or Black and Blue, but am keen to hear more of his story.)
I love that this novel doesn’t fall into the well-worn trap of using every single Aussie cliche possible but at the same time felt very Australian. I think some of that reflects Fox’s (Harriet’s) blunt no-nonsense voice and complete disdain for rules and authority. (#OiOiOi)
And fortunately – which isn’t always the case with collaborations – the plots are interesting; sturdy and complex enough to support and sustain these great characters, so I’m very much hoping this series continues.
As an aside… I’m also conscious Fox has now moved to the US, so hoping that means great things for her career.
Fifty Fifty by James Patterson and Candice Fox was published in Australia by Penguin Random House and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.