Book Review: Crimson Lake by Candice Fox

Crimson Lake by Candice Fox
Published by Penguin/Random House, 2017
(I borrowed a copy from the library)

I wasn't going to review this book.  In fact, not being a crime reader by nature, I probably wasn't even going to read it, until the lovely Erin chose it for our June Book Club meeting.  That being said, from the prologue, I was totally hooked, and I read the entire book in a twenty-four hour period.  What made Crimson Lake so appealing, I think, mainly comes down to the excellent characters.  We've seen the sleuthing duo trope done many times before, both in books and on television (it's rife on television!  One quirky optimist + one tough pessimist, one or other of them a cop or an ex-cop etc etc) but in Crimson Lake, while this dynamic is still in play, the characters' backstories feed directly into active subplots.  So really, while the plot of Crimson Lake revolves around the disappearance of a Far North Queensland fantasy writer, there are actually three mysteries to be solved by the reader as they follow along with the book.

First in importance to my mind is the mystery of what really happened to Claire Bingley.

Our protagonist and narrator, Ted Conkaffey, has been accused of her abduction, rape and attempted murder but he's innocent (or says he is, but he hasn't revealed himself to be an unreliable narrator to my mind).  It's completely ruined his life.  And while there wasn't enough evidence to go through with the trial (because why risk getting him acquitted?) the police could still pick him up again any time they like.  After spending almost a year in jail, during which his wife has left him, taking their baby daughter with her, Ted moves to Crimson Lake, up in Queensland's top end.  A place where the crocs sing you to sleep of a night and the cops are bent.

Ted is railroaded into teaming up with Crimson Lake's local Private Investigator, Amanda Pharrell.  They have something in common.  A decade ago, Amanda was convicted for the stabbing murder of Crimson Lake teenager, Lauren Freeman.  She spent ten years in jail.

But the more Ted gets to know Amanda, the more he feels there has to be something missing from her story.  She doesn't seem like the kind of cold blooded psycho killer the world seems to think she is.  Mystery number three.

This was a real page turner, and though like many popular crime books these days, the mystery at its heart is a little convoluted (suspend your disbelief and just go with it), I can't wait to read book 2.  Too bad it won't be out until February 2018...