Candice Fox’s latest comes with an endorsement from genre legend James Patterson, identifying Fox as “A bright new star of crime fiction.” It’s perhaps not an impartial view, as the pair have written bestselling novels together, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
Redemption Point is the sequel to 2017’s Crimson Lake, in which former NSW Police detective Ted Conkaffey was wrongly accused of the abduction and rape of a 13-year-old girl. Disgraced and abandoned by friends and family, he exiled himself to the croc-infested gothica of north Queensland, where he teamed up with Amanda Pharrell, a brilliant, neurologically diverse and emotionally dented young woman, who has MacGyvered her traumatic past into a career as a private detective.
Conkaffey and Pharrell are now partners with their own investigative firm. A grieving father hires them to investigate the murder of his son in a double homicide and apparent botched robbery at a roadside dive bar. A deeper mystery starts to unspool, but Conkaffey is distracted. His alleged crime has made him infamous, and he must navigate exploitative current affairs shows and the adulation of fans who have been convinced of his innocence by a popular true-crime podcast. Drug dealers, rueful cops and S&M aficionados flit in and out.
There’s an awful lot of plot. Twin narratives spin out wildly, taking labyrinthine twists that might have been a mess in a lesser writer’s hands, but Fox threads the two increasingly unsettling investigations together immaculately. Her prose is punchy and agile, weaving between noir camp and sudden deep dives into psychological darkness that interrogate the borders of morality and cruelty.
It’s just so much fun to spend time in her imagination – a sultry blend of southern Gothic and Scandinavian noir, transplanted to a tropical small town dotted with semi-retired crime lords and dangerous wetlands, as well as suburban Sydney, with its own predators lurking just below the surface.
Conkaffey and Pharrell are wonderful protagonists, indomitable and ruined in their own way – one a beat-up evolution of your classic noir rube, the other conceived somewhere between Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Elmo of Sesame Street.
Redemption Point is the work of an author who is both a fan and a master of genre – someone who knows the rules so well she can juggle them almost playfully. The result is a work that is grisly, original and exhilarating. ZC
Bantam, 352pp, $32.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 16, 2018 as "Candice Fox, Redemption Point". Subscribe here.