In the quiet backwater town his only excitement so far has been the arrival of an injured goose and her offspring, who have proved to be a remarkable balm for his wounds. For a man who has lost everything - family, career, reputation - it is amazing what a difference an over protective mother and her fuzzy little goslings can make. When his lawyer asks him to look up a local woman and reach out to her it is the last thing Ted wants to do, but he is also intrigued about what he could possibly do for someone else when his own life is so messed up. It turns out that Ted might have got it wrong - it was not so much what he could do for her, but what she might be able to do for him.
Amanda Pharrell is a convicted murderer who has served her time and re-joined her community, taking the extraordinary step of qualifying as a Private Investigator. There first meeting is almost like a blind date, Ted is not sure what to expect but it is probably not a heavily tattooed woman who seems to have a few screws loose. Which is fair considering Amanda probably wasn't expecting a bitter and depressed former detective who likes the bottle a little too much. The trial case for a potential partnership is the disappearance of a local author, the local celebrity. It is a challenging case because nothing is what it seems, and because their progress is grudgingly scraped away under the watchful and disruptive presence of two beat cops who have their sights set on Ted.
Being on the wrong side of the law is never easy, but it's worse when you were once counted as one of the good guys. It's a race against time to solve the disappearance before Ted is exposed to the local community as the resident paedophile - or killed outright. Dealing with Amanda's idiosyncrasies and the police harassment is bad enough, but a tenacious reporter is also stalking Ted to try and get an exclusive interview, and she is proving to be very tenacious indeed.
Last year Candice Fox co-authored a Bookshot novella and a full length novel with James Patterson, books that I enjoyed so I picked her book Hades up and tried to get into it - but something just didn't sit right with me and I never got beyond the first few chapters. When I picked up Crimson Lake it was with a certain amount of caution as I didn't want to be disappointed again - but I shouldn't have worried because I was hooked on the story from start to finish. The character of Ted Conkaffey practically leaps off the page and into your psyche from the first page, and when Amanda joins the story it felt like the story had a much needed local voice and flavour that helps you settle into the small town of Crimson Lake quickly and easily. It would have been easy for Fox to choose to have a completely "normal" person to balance out Ted and what is happening to him, but Amanda is a perfect fit because she is haunted by her own past and her own demons.
One of the quirky things about Crimson Lake is that there are no chapter numbers, so you have no idea how many chapters you have read - an interesting technique, as are the short and punchy chapters. It feels like Fox has been influenced in a good way by her work with Patterson, the story is finely crafted with enough description and characters development to help you fully visually the world, and enough pace with the novel to keep you moving along with the action and the drama. It feels very much like this is the first book in a series and I genuinely hope that (1) it is the start of a new series because we NEED to learn more about Ted and Amanda, and (2) that we don't have to wait too long for a sequel!
If you like this book then try:
- Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox
- Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
- Private Sydney by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox
- Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
- Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
- City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong