Hades (Archer and Bennett #1), by Candice Fox

Eight stars

Candice Fox marches onto the scene and makes an instant name for herself with an Australian police procedural with a significant twist. Frank Bennett is the new man on the Homicide Squad, a recent transfer with a list of less than stellar items from his past. When paired with the independent Eden Archer, Bennett cannot help but hope that he can melt her frigid exterior, while perhaps winning his way into her heart, or at least her knickers. With her elder brother, Eric, in the squad room alongside her and willing to take the piss out of anyone who messes with Eden, the team is less a cohesive unit than one full of competition. After the discovery of a collection of steel toolboxes at the local marina, Archer and Bennett are called to the scene, only to discover the grisly remains of a number of people, some of whom have been dismembered. What ties them together is that the bodies have at least one set of organs missing, removed with surgical precision. There is a killer on the loose, but who is procuring and accepting these organs? As Archer and Bennett dig a little deeper, they discover a correlation between those who remove themselves from the donor transplant list and a number of missing persons in and around the Sydney area. After interviewing at least one couple, they learn of the killer’s motive; to offer up the healthy organs of someone who will not be missed, for a price. One of the captors is able to escape her prison and shines added light to the killer and where they might be working, which propel Archer and Bennett into a high-risk game of cat and mouse. Running parallel to the story’s primary narrative is one about a man named Hades and two young children who come into his possession. He raises them and tries to instil a set of core beliefs with which they can use in life, even though he is nothing but a deeply rooted killer. How does this story mesh with what Archer and Bennett are doing? Fox leads the reader along the explosive path, only to drop another few bombshells along the way. A stellar first novel in a series that is sure to be both gripping and talked about for years to come.

I first came across Fox when asked to read a galley of her second novel, where I learned even more about Archer and Bennett. I was hooked at that point, but had wished I took the time to read HADES beforehand, as spoilers were plentiful. I found Fox laid out her macabre story in such a way as to entertain and enthral the reader, even with its gory nature. The narrative flows so easily that the reader cannot help but want to read a little more, if only to sate their desire for a little more action. Eden Archer is surely a complex character, paired with the down-and-out Frank Bennett, which creates and wonderful banter, even as the latter cannot help but try to use his manly ways to coax a little something from his partner. Add in some rough characters and the story takes on a life of its own, while Fox stands back and allows the reader to revel in everything she has to offer. Fox will make a household name for herself around the world and likely has done so already in Australia.

Kudos, Madam Fox for this great debut. I know you have two others in the series, one of which I have already read. I cannot wait to see what you’ve done alone, along with your recent project alongside James Patterson.