It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Aussie author Candice Fox. I love her work and very much appreciate her dry and whip-smart wit.
Two of my favourite (11) books of the year last year were hers and I was particularly excited by the appearance of Crimson Lake – the first in a new series after the popular Eden, Hades and Fall series.
Redemption Point is the second book set in the fictional far north Queensland community of Crimson Lake. And again Fox not only offers up some amazing characters, but also firmly plants readers in the humid dense rainforest and the murky crocodile-infested waters of my home-state’s isolated and often unwelcoming far north.
by Candice Fox
Series: Crimson Lake #2
Published by Bantam Australia
on January 29th 2018
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
When former police detective Ted Conkaffey was wrongly accused of abducting thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley, he hoped the Queensland rainforest town of Crimson Lake would be a good place to disappear. But nowhere is safe from Claire’s devastated father.
Dale Bingley has a brutal revenge plan all worked out – and if Ted doesn’t help find the real abductor, he’ll be its first casualty.
Meanwhile, in a dark roadside hovel called the Barking Frog Inn, the bodies of two young bartenders lie on the beer-sodden floor. It’s Detective Inspector Pip Sweeney’s first homicide investigation – complicated by the arrival of private detective Amanda Pharrell to ‘assist’ on the case. Amanda’s conviction for murder a decade ago has left her with some odd behavioural traits, top-to-toe tatts – and a keen eye for killers.
For Ted and Amanda, the hunt for the truth will draw them into a violent dance with evil. Redemption is certainly on the cards – but it may well cost them their lives . . .
The first book in this series introduced us to Ted and Amanda. We learn of the accusations against Ted and his escape from Sydney. We also meet Amanda and though they pair up to solve a recent crime, Ted can’t but help dig into the past Amanda would prefer to stay buried. She doesn’t hide the fact she’s served 10 years in prison for murder, but the questions surrounding her crime interest Ted and it becomes one of two mysteries solved in that first outing.
That book ended just as Amanda uncovers new information about the rape of a 13yr old – the crime of which Ted’s accused. And as this book opens we learn he’s done nothing with that information, and nothing to support an online community who believe in his innocence.
There are a couple of additional voices in this book. One we’ve met before, a former uniformed officer promoted to Crimson Lake, DI Pip Sweeney, who’s captivated by Amanda and her ways; and then there’s Kevin, whose diary extracts we read and whose role soon becomes clear.
Again Fox offers two mysteries for the price of one as we delve into the charges against Ted, as well as the murders in Crimson Lake.
I must admit I wasn’t hugely engaged in the investigation into deaths of the two young people and don’t think that element of the plot is quite as strong as I would have liked, though I’m not sure why. In some ways the ‘who’ felt kinda obvious (as options were limited), but the ‘why’ was a bit left-field.
There are a few red herrings and local secrets thrown into the mix however and Fox again does a great job of recreating the far north, nailing the idiosyncrasies of some of the small and eclectic communities you find there. So, although I wasn’t really drawn into that mystery, a sense of foreboding surrounding the investigation remained.
And then there’s Ted’s case which is the more interesting of the two and I guess we get into the psychology of the crime (of which he’s accused) a little more than the double-murder. And this time around we meet some of the players from his former life and wonder if he will (one day) return to it.
But, the real delight in these novels and Fox’s extraordinary talent lie in her writing and the characters on offer.
Fox’s prose aren’t overly whimsical or lyrical but they’re addictive. They’re fine-tuned, peeled back until only the bare essentials remain and there’s something mesmerising about what’s left on the page. And she can most certainly set a scene.
When I’d moved to the north after being freed from prison, I’d found the heat oppressive, the humidity a shocking fog that infected every minute of my day, relieved only in the early hours after I’d sweated through my sheets and lost any hope of sleep. Frequent storms came and broke the heat briefly, rain hammering the corrugated iron roof of the porch. The rain drew up from the hidden depths all manner of amphibians; geckos appearing on the roof beams and fat, glistening frogs lolling on the lawn. After a few months I’d acclimatised. As I walked, head down and thoughts churning, the thick air brought a kind of safety bubble down around me, so that I calmed as I focused on the taste of it, the rainforest smell of earth and moss a natural remedy. p 191
As for her characters, she’s seriously good at developing complex characters we could (and sometimes SHOULD) dislike, but don’t.
Ted’s again a bundle of surprises. In some ways it’s almost as if he’s given up on life; but then there’s a smidge of rebellion as he fights his way out of his fugue and self-imposed isolation.
As for Amanda – she seems even more outrageous (and endearing) in this outing. Having said that she’d be bloody hard work to be around. She and Ted have settled into a bit of a pattern now and their relationship is an interesting one.
She was like hat, slightly supernatural, able to appear seemingly by will exactly where she needed to be, her senses heightened, aware on another plane of people’s thoughts and intentions unspoken. She might have annoyed me with all of her deeply unfair extraordinary abilities if I didn’t like her so much.p 167
There’s also an intimacy that I really enjoyed. They ‘get’ each other and there’s a mutual respect and affection developing that is not even vaguely sexual…
There was nothing erotic about us. In fact, Amanda seemed to have little concept about regular emotions. She was exactly as bright and cheerful about finding me not dead as I imagined she’d have been about finding my corpse….
Her social-emotional barometer had certainly been bashed around by her murder-conviction, by her decade in prison. But I wasn’t exactly sure it had been firing on all pistons before that. p 20
If she wanted, Fox could almost finish this series here. I’d like to see more of both Ted and Amanda, but I’m not sure where she’ll take them now. In some ways the overarching arc of Ted’s story is done, but I’m sure the far north of Queensland is a hot bed of crime and corruption and it’d certainly be good to see both again. (And again.)
Redemption Point by Candice Fox will be published in Australia by Penguin Random House.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.