First Sentence: I was having some seriously dark thoughts when I found Woman.
Ted Conkaffey was tried for the rape of a teenage girl but was released when not enough evidence could be found to convict him. Now he lives every day with the fear of being re-arrested. Amanda Pharrell served eight years for murder, was released and is now a PI in Crimson Lake, Australia. When a wealthy woman hires Amanda to determine whether the woman's missing husband, author Jake Scully, is dead, Amanda insists that Ted help her with the case. What did happen to the husband? Is Ted really innocent? Was Amanda really guilty?
One of the best types of openings is one which intrigues the reader, draws one in and insists one follow without having any idea where the path will lead. It is also one which creates such a strong sense of place and character that one is immediately involved in the story. Fox achieves both goals.
Fox creates excellent visual images—"Moss and vines grew on every surface they could manage. Along the rivers, broken-down houses with yawning doorways squatted in the brush, peering out, not a brick or patch of wood that composed them showing through their cloaks of lush leaves."
It's the characters which compel one to keep reading. Interesting, unusual, well-constructed characters are a reader's dream. Fox makes that dream come true. Learning of Ted's former profession is a nicely-done twist. The more one gets to know about Amanda, with her set of rules, the more fascinating she becomes. Yet Fox doesn't ignore the secondary characters, especially forensic pathologist Valerie Gratteur. Although there are a lot of different characters, Fox segments them into the story so that one never becomes confused as to who each is.
While the characters are a strength, Fox doesn't ignore the plot. Periodic inclusions of anonymous letters which had been sent to the victim are a bit of a cliché and not entirely unreminiscent of the story "Misery," but they do cause one to wonder down what path they will lead, and the more we learn about the victim, the more interesting even he becomes. With the addition of the second thread—questioning whether Amanda really did murder her friend—and the third thread—Amanda not believing that Ted raped the girl--one is given a lot to consider while never losing track of each plot line. Fox does a remarkable job of laying out the primary investigation step-by-step while making us understand the trauma Ted and Amanda suffered from their individual experiences.
"Crimson Lake" has a very good escalation of suspense which may result in reading very late into the night. Ted and Amanda are a team of which one wants to see more. This is a wonderful read with a perfect epilogue and ending.
CRIMSON LAKE (LicInv- Ted Connor (Conkaffey)/Amanda Pharrell– Australia-Contemp) – VG+
Fox, Candice – 1st in seriesForge – Mar 2018