Monday, April 3, 2017


by Candice Fox
Recommended Ages: 15+

In this opening novel of what has become (so far) the "Archer and Bennett" trilogy, Sydney homicide detective Frank Bennett immediately notices something about his new partner, the beautiful Eden Archer, that makes him want to dig deeper and find out more. By the time they solve their first mystery together, the impulse has led him into a bond of blood with a woman whose brilliance at detecting sociopathic killers stems from being one herself.

Not only is she one, but so is her detective brother Eric, who if anything is even more dangerous - to bad guys, to anyone who gets too close to the secret he and Eden share, and most of all to Frank. As he gets closer to being able to prove the siblings are moonlighting as murderers, hunting bad guys the justice system can't stop and making them disappear forever, Frank finds himself closer to becoming another of their not-quite-innocent victims. Meantime, he also gets too close to a victim who escaped the serial killer he and Eden are after. This sicko, by the way, has developed a gruesome procedure for sparing transplant patients a long time on the waiting list, provided they aren't picky about how the organs were procured.

A successful reader of this book will have a strong stomach, buffered against the grisly discoveries in store for the cops, as they chase a mad medico whose devotion to Darwin provides a rationale for many of his crimes. They must also have a strong heart, able to take being broken by the pain in store for the imperfect yet sympathetic main character. And they should also have a nimble mind, as the point of view shifts occasionally to that of the killer (the guy doing the organ transplants, that is), and also regularly flashes back to Eric and Eden's upbringing by the organized crime fixer whose nickname gives the book its title. No stranger to killing himself, it is ultimately Hades' heartbreak one feels, as he raises two orphans left on his doorstep by one of their parents' killers, and loves them even though he knows what they will someday become. It is a book that provokes thought about the line between justice and vengeance. It even tries - not entirely without success - for a little sympathy with at least one of the Archer siblings, as she struggles to master her own demons while fighting demons at large.

This is the debut novel of an Australian writer whose name has lately been appearing, in smaller and less-bold type, below that of crime writer James Patterson - one of those authors who, like Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, etc., have such successful brand-names that they can afford to shelter less-successful talents under them. Why Candice Fox would need to do this is a question that mystifies me. She won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best first novel with this book - an honor bestowed annually by the Crime Writers Association of Australia, approximately the down-under equivalent of the Edgar Awards in the U.S. Its sequel Eden won a Ned Kelly for best novel the next year, and the third book in the series, Fall, was short-listed for the same award in 2016. Even in translation into U.S. English (ha, ha), I see nothing lacking in Fox's talent writing crime thrillers, certainly not such that she should be relegated to a footnote on the cover under marquee-sized bold capitals spelling out "James Patterson." I say this with no malice toward the American author, of whose work I have yet to read one page. I just think the author who actually did most of the work should get most of the credit, and if they truly co-wrote it, they should get equal credit. Also, I think this author - I mean Candice Fox - is good enough to have her own best-selling brand.

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