Candice Fox, The Chase cover image

Book review: The Chase by Candice Fox

Candice Fox, all-around good guy, champion of emerging writers, writer of creepy thrillers. I’ve been a fan of Candice Fox since reading her first novel, Hades. Her crime novels are fast-paced and brimming with big bold characters doing outrageous things. She takes us to the limits of believability and holds us there, peering over the cliff face.

The Chase is set in the USA and I suspect Americans are the primary audience for the novel, though perhaps American culture simply allows Candice to take things a step further.

Every year Proghorn Correctional Facility had a Christmas softball game between the wardens and the inmates.

The warden’s families come on a bus through the Nevada desert to make a day of it. This year they are held hostage under the gaze of a sniper in order to free the entire prison population, some of the most dangerous in the country. The incident prompts the biggest manhunt in history. The novel takes the reader on a journey with some of them.

Celine Osbourne is in charge of the death row prisoners. She takes her job, and the break out very seriously. She’s also obsessed with one prisoner in particular and makes it her mission to track down and capture John Kradle.

She pinched the tobacco between her thumb and forefinger, flicked out the rolling paper with a touch more flair than she probably needed to, and laid the little caterpillar of brown fibres down in its thin, dry bed. Three boys, all cousins of hers, crowded in to watch her lick and roll the cigarette. Celine put the smoke to her lips and lit up. Their eyes were big and wild with excitement. It was a thrilling display on many levels. They were all farm kids, and lighting a match for any reason in a barn full of hay was like flipping the bird to Jesus Christ.

John Kradle had been on death row for five years after being found guilty of murdering his family.

He didn’t believe in all the ghost stuff. But he showed up anyway. He figured that was what you did when you loved someone. You nodded and laughed and chipped in with a ‘She’s right, you know. I’ve seen it!’ occasionally.

The breakout is Kradle’s one chance to set the record straight, prove his innocence. Trouble is, a serial killer and Celine are on his tail.

Kradle put his hands on the table, stared at them, and felt a wave of relief roll over him. A part of him had known, in all the years that Christine had been missing, that she had left simply because she was broken. That even if an explanation ever came, it wouldn’t be rational or healing to him.

I could feel the heat of the desert, the desperation, rage and grief of the characters as the complexity of their inner worlds drove their choices – good and bad. The Chase kept me turning the pages and sneaking moments in my day to keep reading. And how lovely to get to the end of find that Candice has dedicated the book to those of us unpublished writers who keep plugging away, hoping that our work will one day find a home.

I have dedicated this book to all aspiring authors. It’s not an easy road. Waiting. Trying. Daydreaming. Being rejected. Having your hopes destroyed and trying to rebuild them. It’s lonely, frustrating, and tedious. But whatever you do, my advice is never to let it become hopeless. Only you have control over that.

Book review: Gathering Dark by Candice Fox

Candice Fox’s latest novel Gathering Dark, in its second print run already, is a page turning romp of a thriller set in Los Angeles and spilling over with larger than life characters.

Recently released from jail, Blair Harbour was a well respected paediatric surgeon leading a privileged life and about to become a mother, then she shot and killed her next door neighbour, went to jail and had her child taken from her. Now she works the graveyard shift at a cartel owned gas station while she tries to get her life back together. When she is held up one night by the daughter of the woman she’d shared a cell with, and her cell mate, Sneak, turns up looking for help to track down her daughter who has disappeared, Blair agrees.

Screaming would have been a terrible idea. If I startled her, that slippery finger was going to jerk on the trigger and blow my brains all over the cigarette cabinet behind me. I didn’t want to be wasted in my stupid uniform, my hat emblazoned with a big pink kangaroo and the badge on my chest that truthfully read ‘Blair’ but lied ‘I love to serve!’

Gathering Dark

Jessica Sanchez is a detective who doesn’t quite fit the force and is being ostracised by her colleagues because an old man left his fortune to her after she solved the murder case of his daughter. The mansion he bequeathed her is next door to the house where the son of Blair, who Sanchez put away for murder, now lives.

But then she saw the blood on his hands, all over his face, her neck. Jessica thought of vampires and zombies, of magical, impossible things, and had to steady herself against a pool table. Her mind split as the full force of terror hit, half of it wailing and screaming at her to flee, the other half assessing what this was: a vicious assault in progress. Assailant likely under the influence of drugs. Bath salts–they’d been hitting the streets hard in the past few weeks, making kids do crazy things: gouge their own eyes out, kill animals, ride their bikes off cliffs. She was watching a man eat a woman alive.

Gathering Dark

What unfolds is a complex web of lies, crime and deception, packaged in a tight plot, with well crafted dialogue, rolling prose and a good dose of black humour. I loved the tough female characters, the bad ass baddies, oh, and the gopher, got to love the gopher.

Candice Fox has been running a regular Wednesday Facebook Live write club of late. You can logon and write with her for an hour, then take part in a half hour Q&A where she answers all your writing questions. She’s an incredibly generous, funny and talented writer. I have enjoyed her writing since picking up her first novel Hades, but am now a lifetime fan, so if you are a crime reader and haven’t yet devoured any of her work – get onto it.

Book review: Hades by Candice Fox

I’d known about crime writer Candice Fox for some time, but not actually picked up one of her books until recently, and what a treat it was. Hades, won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut crime novel in 2014.

Caste offs

Hades is an ox of a man who runs the Utulla tip, makes giant sculptures from salvaged scrap metal, and gets rid of unwanted bodies by disposing of them in the mountains of waste to decompose. When a stranger arrives and asks him to dispose of the bodies of two children, saying their deaths were an accident, Hades killed him. Then he notices the toes of one of the tiny bundles move. He keeps the children, raises them as his own.

The children grow up to be cops, crusaders of justice. Eden is dark, beautiful and aloof, and Eric her brother, brash and a stirrer of trouble. Frankie gets assigned to the station as Eden’s partner after both their former colleague are killed, and the two set out to track down a serial killer who harvests organs for people prepared pay, but not to wait. Frankie soon starts to notice something strange about the siblings he can’t quite put his finger on and starts poking and prodding around in their past. Will he live to quench his curiosity?

Cover image of Hades by Candice Fox
Big fish

Fox’s voice rolls out the story like a crashing ocean wave, leaving debris in its wake. It is beautiful, poetic, Gothic and deadly. The characters are compelling anti-heroes, her plotting exquisite and her prose enthralling. I love a local tale and the novel is set in Sydney, Australia, an added bonus.

It was hard to put down and I had a few late nights of page turning in my hunger to find out what happened. Fortunately when I finished, there was a sequel available to pick up. I fear a binge is coming on, so was relieved to find she has ten novels to her name laying in wait for me.