I love the way Candice Fox writes. The intricate details. The vivid characters. The original premises. So I was super excited to get my hands on Crimson Lake, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Crimson Lake is the story of an innocent man, Ted Conkaffey, who’s been accused of a hideous, violent crime against a young girl. The charges against him were dropped, but most people still believe he’s guilty. Now he’s hiding with his life in tatters, lost and directionless. Until he meets a local woman who might have a job for him. Convicted killer and private detective, Amanda Pharell is a highly unusual woman in many ways. Peculiar and damaged. Direct to the point of bluntness. Strongly averse to cars. Covered head to foot in tattoos, and obsessed with rhyme. She’s a vivid enigma, revealed a little at a time throughout the story. Ted is almost plain by comparison. An ex-cop, a husband and father, falsely accused and estranged from his family, trying to find a way to carry on. Together, Ted and Amanda investigate the disappearance of a missing author, Jake Scully, at the request of his wife. Separately, and secretly, they look into each other’s cases.
There are three main threads to Crimson Lake. Told from Ted’s point of view, there’s little mystery about his alleged crime and how he ended up where he is in the story. There remains the question of who really committed the crime that he was accused of, but very little story time is devoted to this aspect. It’s more about Ted trying to find a way forward after his life’s been turned inside out. And trying to survive the vigilantes who don’t want him in their town. The other two threads of the narrative are the disappearance of Jake Scully, and the truth about the murder at Kissing Point – the crime that Amanda Pharell went to prison for. The more they delve into Scully’s case, the more they realise the secrets he was hiding. Their investigation takes them from his writing and fans, through the local church and gay communities, and finally ending up in a dramatic showdown with the killer in the croc infested waters of Cairns’s surrounds.
And as for the murder at Kissing Point, the more Ted delves into Amanda’s case the more he realises that the details don’t add up with the woman he is coming to know. By the end of the book he has learned far more than Amanda ever intended him to know, and through him, so has the reader.
Crimson Lake was very interesting. The Scully investigation seems to be headed in one, logical direction for much of the book. But it takes a sudden, unexpected turn at the end when Ted notices one important little detail that shows everything up in a new light. And with Amanda’s case, even as it became obvious that something wasn’t right, it wasn’t clear what it was, or how it would come around to the truth. The story inspired a sense of curiosity that drove me to keep reading, eager to discover all of the secrets.
I really enjoyed Crimson Lake. The intricate details of the characters, setting and mystery were delightful, and I found quirky Amanda particularly fascinating. I wouldn’t describe Crimson lake as gripping exactly, but it definitely has a certain intrigue to it. I could put it down, I just didn’t want to.