Gathering Dark (Jessica Sanchez #1), by Candice Fox

Eight stars

I find myself excited whenever I come into possession of a new Candice Fox novel, sure that it will both pack a punch and prove to be highly entertaining. This piece was no exception, though it pushes the reader familiar with Fox’s work outside of their comfort zone, at least a little. Blair Harbour had it all as a surgeon in Los Angeles. Then, after a confrontation gone awry, she found herself imprisoned for murder. Having tried to make something of herself, Blair is stuck working a dead-end job. When she’s approached by her friend from prison, Sneak Lawlor, Blair has nothing to lose, except her freedom on a parole violation. Sneak’s daughter, Dayly, has gone missing without a trace. Working with limited information, Blair and Sneak begin their investigation, but get a bad vibe when they try to file a mission person’s report. Meanwhile, LAPD detective Jessica Sanchez has her own issues. Gifted a home by the father of a murder victim whose killer she caught, Sanchez is put in the awkward position of being vilified by her squad, especially a partner who slacked off during the case but feels he is entitled to some of the prize. As she dodged insults and attacks, Sanchez is put on leave when she is part of an officer-involved shooting. As she ponders what to do next, she discovers that one of her former cases, that of Blair Harbour, has resurfaced, with potential new information. As she tracks this down, Sanchez is visited by none other than Blair Harbour herself, all in an effort to track down Dayly Lawlor. As news of Dayly’s last weeks before the disappearance begin to come together, no one could have predicted the turn in the case, or who has a viable reason to want Dayly dead. Rich with plot twists and interesting characters, Fox does well with this novel, leaving the reader to enjoy this new series in the making. Recommended to those who like police procedurals told from a different perspective, as well as the reader who is a diehard fan of Candice Fox.

I rushed to make time in my reading schedule for this book, eager to see what might arise when Candice Fox is working alone. Familiar with a lot of her Australia-based writing, this was a refreshing story, set on the dark streets of L.A. The reader is introduced to a number of strong characters throughout, incline Blair Harbour and Jessica Sanchez. Both women have their backstories told here in some detail, as well as showing some great character development throughout the novel. I choose not to hone in on one as the true protagonist, as their stories are equally important and find a place in the novel. Fox uses her creative mind to concoct a few more wonderful secondary characters that complement these two women, on all sides of the law. This provides a highly entertaining and intriguing development of the story throughout. The premise was quite strong, as is usually the case with Candice Fox, where all central characters are tinged with some criminal backstory or troubles within the police that cannot be ignored. The plot moved along well and the narrative gained momentum throughout. Fox steps away from her usual short chapter teaser style, in which one chapter leaves the reader needing more, and uses a longer and more developed storytelling style. The reader hunkers down to get fully involved. In a novel whose chapters alternate between the Jessica and Blair viewpoints, Fox does well to offer a well-rounded story. If I had a critique, and it is minor, it is that Fox appears not to focus her attention on the setting of the story as it relates to word usage. Spelling and terminology were of an Australian origin (‘s’ instead of ‘z’ for realize, ‘bonnet’ instead of ‘trunk’ of the car). I find this at times when writers are composing pieces outside of their home country, as I wonder why an American ex-con would admit to “not being fussed”. As I said, minor, but there. I cannot wait to see what else Fox has in store for the reader and whether her collaborative efforts will bring us more Harry Blue soon.

Kudos, Madam Fox, for another wonderful piece. Love your writing, your ideas, and how entertained I tend to be when I read your novels!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: