Gone by Midnight (Crimson Lake #3), by Candice Fox

Eight stars

Candice Fox takes readers back to the Crimson Lake region of Australia for a new and exciting adventure. When Richie Farrow disappears from his hotel room, his mother is frantic and cannot handle the pressure and grief that are flooding over her. Reaching out to Ted Conkaffey, through the police, she seeks his assistance as a private investigator to help determine what’s happened. Ted, still leery of showing his face in general public, tries to set aside the false accusation of child abduction and molestation recently vacated against him and turns to helping find this eight year-old boy. With the help of his partner, unpredictable Amanda Pharrell, they start poking around the hotel and environs for clues. Once Ted learns a deep secret that Sara Farrow has kept from others—which also happens to shed light on why she chose him—he is able to take a new approach to the disappearance and seeks to have Amanda use her off-the-wall antics to look under every rock. However, Amanda has her own battles to fight with those in blue. Not only is she burdened with a murder in her past, but she was tangentially involved in a local cop’s death not too long before. Fighting to clear her name and move the case forward, Amanda soon discovers that she is in for the battle of her life. If things were not busy enough, Ted is finally being given some time with his daughter, Lillian, a ball of energy at three. As he balances being a father and investigator, Ted must locate Richie and determine what’s happened, with little evidence with which to work. Could there be an abductor lurking in the shadows or even in plain sight? Fox does a masterful job yet again to lure the reader into this story before loading them up with plot twists and character development. Recommended for series fans, as well as those who love a good Aussie crime thriller.

I have long admired the work that Candice Fox puts into her writing, as it is high-calibre story development worthy of a second look. This series is one that caught my eye as soon as it began, with two outcasts finding one another in rural Australia and trying to clear their names by helping with local situations. There is no shortage of backstory or development that Fox offers when it comes to her two protagonists, both of whom are admirable and angering in equal measure. Series fans will know that Ted Conkaffey was forced out of his job by a false accusation of child abduction, something that has lingered for years and kept him from being able to keep his foundation level. He fled the reporters and the glamour of the 24-hour news cycle to small-town Australia and still remains off the beaten path with his animals. Fox helps show his paternal side when Lillian comes to visit, though there is much juggling and trying to re-learn the art of being a father. With a sharp mind and acute sense of danger, Conkaffey seeks to focus much of his attention on the crime at hand, which leads to mixed results for him throughout this piece. Amanda Pharrell has no issue being herself, though she remains burdened with the yoke of her past, as well as a set of false accusations tied to a police officer’s death. She wants to succeed, but refuses to let anyone inside her bubble, including the adorable Lillian. Struggling and trying to fight for justice, Amanda will do all she can to help find Richie, but won’t stick her neck out too far for anyone else. Others who populate the pages of this story offer enriching angles to propel the narrative forward, while keeping the protagonists from getting too comfortable in their own skins. The story was well-developed and is able to keep the reader’s attention, something that Fox has never had an issue doing. She has developed an interesting trademark in this series, creating nameless and numberless chapters, forcing the reader to forge onwards without any strict guidelines as to how far they have traveled on the journey. It works well, as it fuels the ‘just a little more’ syndrome with readers who are enjoying what is before them, turning a quite coffee break into an afternoon of reading. Fox provides realistic settings and local dialogue to keep the reader enthralled as they feel a part of the Australian community, tagging along with the likes of Pharrell and Conkaffey. Definitely a series that readers curious about police procedurals should note, as Fox seems well-grounded in her writing and story development no matter what series she is writing.

Kudos, Madam Fox, for another success. I am eager to see what is to come with this and other series in which you have a key role.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons