Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

The Blurb On The Back:

12.46:

13-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 is all it takes to ruin detective Ted Conkaffey’s life.  Now he’s living in the croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake, and a high-profile author has just gone missing …

Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, Detective Ted Conkaffey escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy no. 1.  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 Conkaffey.

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 …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Ted Conkaffey was a Sydney drugs squad detective with a wife and a new born daughter.  Life wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t bad. Then after an argument with his wife, he went out fishing and stopped by a bus stop where 13-year-old Claire Bingley was waiting.  In the 6 minutes between him stopping next to her and the bus arriving, Claire disappeared.  17 hours later she was discovered naked, beaten and raped.

Ted quickly became the only suspect for the crime and the evidence against him was enough to put him on remand for 8 months.  Then half way through his trial the prosecution withdrew the case.  Robbed of a chance to prove his innocence and convicted by the media, his marriage collapsed and he fled Sydney, eventually ending up in the town of Crimson Lake near Cairns where he’s put in contact with Amanda Pharrell, who runs a private detective agency and has a big case: famous author and local celebrity Jake Scully has disappeared and the police have no leads.  But Amanda has her own notorious history that means Crimson Lake’s residents has no reason to help either of them …

Candice Fox’s crime thriller (the first in a series) is a slickly written affair whose main character convinces as a man broken by his experience but the set-up is a bit of a silly gimmick, Pharrell verges on caricature with her mannerisms and I disliked the way she needed Ted to save her from her own past.  I found Ted believable as he seeks to recover from his experience and deal with the fact that he’ll always be viewed with suspicion.  I wished that Amanda had been given the same nuance and depth – instead she’s a mess of quirks and mannerisms with a murder conviction that she refuses to discuss (plus the idea of two PIs with criminal pasts seems needlessly gimmicky).  I did like their chemistry and the mystery itself unveils at a cracking pace with some interesting twists that kept me guessing.  I also enjoyed the way Fox makes use of the geographical setting, especially the salt water crocodiles who play a key role, while the small town atmosphere and the way everyone knows everyone else’s business helps to build tension.  If you can get past the gimmick, then I think it’s worth a read and I’ll definitely check out the sequel.

CRIMSON LAKE will be released in the United Kingdom on 6th April 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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