First Sentence: The real trouble came at midnight.
Four families, each with one son, are having dinner at the White Caps Hotel, checking about every hour on the four boys left in a hotel room upstairs. At the midnight check, Sara Farrow finds her eight-year-old son, Richard, is missing in spite of the other three boys swearing no one left the room. Police Chief Damien Clark is not pleased when the mother, Sara, insists on hiring PI Ted Conkaffey and his unusual partner, Amanda Pharrell. The investigation is complicated by Teds being granted a week-long visitation of his almost-two-year-old daughter, and a policewoman who obsessively blames Amanda for the death of her partner.
What a well-done, dramatic opening. More than that is the fact that it actively involves the reader and then segues perfectly into the next chapter.
Fox knows how to convey emotion. One feels the fear which transitions to worry. We understand the attachment as we learn of the protagonist's history and his name. Amanda knows how to make an entrance and, once she does, she's one of the most memorable characters one will find. For those who love quirky characters, one can't do much better than Amanda—"The next man who tells me what to do around here is going to get his nads kicked so hard he's going to taste them at the back of his throat." She is not a woman to cross, but she attracts other interesting characters to her, such as a biker gang.
There is interesting information about judging the behavior of the missing boy's mother. The interview between the father, Ted, and Amanda is so well done. Fox writes in visual terms. One can easily see why a television series is going to be made from these books. Fox builds sympathy for a character and then shatters it while switching to something completely ordinary. That's clever writing.
It is surprising that Ted, being a former cop, isn't better at reading people, but that's balanced by Amanda. The feud between Amanda and Joanna Fisher escalates in dangerous turns--"…perhaps she shouldn't have fired on Fisher through her door. That wasn't good. … But she hadn't hit Joanna, so Amanda decided to ignore that little slip-up." and the added character of Superfish is wonderful. The advantage of the two protagonists is being able to split them up, doubling the excitement and tension as things progress.
As to the plot, some of it is a bit predictable from obvious tells along the way. There is no question that Fox's books focus more on character than on plot, but that's actually just fine.
"Gone by Midnight" is a terrific read with wonderful characters and a great ending. Fox really does need to write them faster.
GONE BY MIDNIGHT (PI-Ted Conkaffey/Amanda Pharrell-North Queensland, Australia-Contemp) – VG+
Fox, Candice – 3rd in seriesCentury – January 2019