Hush Hush (Detective Harriet Blue #4), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Eight stars

Returning for another collaborative novel, James Patterson and Candice Fox add to their highly popular Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue series. With Blue incarcerated, her world has been turned upside down. Forced to watch over her shoulder at every turn, Blue does not hesitate to defend herself, even if it means a trip to the infirmary. During her frequent trips, Blue befriends the doctor, who has an affinity for the copper. When the doctor’s body turns up in a pool of blood on the infirmary floor, many eyes turn to Blue. While she does have a temper, Blue is also in possession of a strong alibi. However, another prisoner seems to be the prime suspect, leaving Blue to investigate, sure of her friend’s innocence. Wanting to pursue the case on the inside, Blue begins poking around as best she can. On the outside, the daughter of one of the city’s police commissioners has gone missing. With a sordid history involving drugs, one can only wonder if she’s out on a binge. However, she has her young daughter with her, something that defies much of her past behaviour, which also puts everyone on high alert. Wanting this case to take high priority, an agreement to see Blue released is negotiated, though Harry will have to swallow her pride, as she was never a friend of the police brass. As Blue is reunited with her partner, Ed Whittaker, they work together to trace the whereabouts of their missing person, but the clues are few and far between. Might this have been a drug deal gone bad, with the toddler used as leverage? When not in middle of the investigation, Blue returns to the prison to find evidence of who might have killed the hard working doctor. What Blue discovers is more than she might have expected, with little time to waste. Patterson and Fox exemplify how well they work together with yet another addition in the Harry Blue series. Recommended to fans of Harry Blue novels, as well as readers who like Patterson’s style while paired with a capable collaborator.

It’s never a sure thing that the reader will find a great book when James Patterson’s name appears on the cover—though his name alone seems to sell books, quality be damned—but when paired with Candice Fox, one can almost be assured of success. Working to create wonderful police procedurals set in Australia, the reader is able to experience something a little different (for those who do not live Down Under) without sacrificing quality. Harry Blue has always been an entertaining character, even if she is not known for her verbal filter. Her actions to track down some of the worst criminals in sex crimes, she has finally allowed her emotions to get the better of her. Locked away for killing an Australian pedophile, she must answer for her actions, while also being labelled ‘cop’. This does nothing to ensure her safety, as she come face to face with all forms of female inmates. Forced to sacrifice her standards to help someone else, Blue agrees to run two investigations that appear greatly different on the surface. The reader will notice her unique approach to policing and her inability to stomach the ignorant. There is surely some development here, though much of the focus is on her ability to locate criminals in short order. There are others, both returning a new characters, who add depth to the story and whose presence will surely entertain the reader. Working to extract key facets of the Harry Blue personality, Patterson and Fox paint these secondary characters in such a way that they complement the protagonist effectively. The story is strong, pushing the reader out of their comfort zone as a prison is one of the primary settings for the story. In order to stay on the ‘outside’, Blue will have to do all that is asked of her, though success is far from guaranteed. Patterson and Fox do well to push the story forward with this spin and keep the reader wanting more until the very last pages.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, on another masterful story. I have enjoyed Harry Blue to date and hope your collaborative efforts continue well into the future.

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

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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

Liar, Liar (Harriet Blue #3), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Eight stars

The collaborative efforts of James Patterson and Candice Fox have brought about another winner in this third instalment of the Harriet Blue series. Picking up the action when the previous novel ended, the reader is thrust into a fast-paced crime thriller that has as many twists as it does lingering questions. With the revelation that Regan Banks is the actual Georges River Killer, it is time to capture Australia’s most elusive serial killer in short order. While Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue has always professed that her brother, Sam, is innocent, it was only after he was murdered behind bars and the evidence came to light that anyone believed her. With Banks on the lam, Blue has taken it upon herself to find him alone and put a bullet in his head in an act of vigilante justice, while lurking in the shadows and away from her colleagues. With the Task Force turning its attention to finding Banks, they must also worry about Blue, hoping she will resurface and let the authorities bring the killer in to answer for his crimes. With Banks in hiding, he is able to ascertain Blue’s personnel file, which includes much of her backstory from a life in foster care. Reaching out to Blue, Banks takes her around southern Australia to different locations of people important to her, leaving bodies as a calling card. Meanwhile, Blue’s friend and fellow cop, Edward Whittacker, has been given a new partner as they hunt down the likes of Banks. Vada Reskit is a rookie detective with a great deal of gumption, perfect to help with the investigation, though there is something about her that leaves Whittacker a little concerned. As the case pushes forward and the Sydney Police turn Blue into a criminal on the run, there is little hope for a peaceful resolution to all of this. While Banks and Blue continue their game of cat and mouse, all that remains sure is that there will only be one survivor and a lot of blood. Patterson and Fox continue this successful partnership, crafting a series that has all the elements of a good crime thriller. Perfect for series fans and those who love a crime novel they will be able to devour in short order, as they revel in an ending that no one could have expected.

In my long reading career, I have spent much time with the books of James Patterson. Some will know that I have a love/hate relationship with the author, who would appear to use his name to sell books, rather than focussing on quality (the James Patterson Syndrome). While that may be the case, Patterson does collaborate with a number of authors who seem to have a strong ability to create quality work, thereby showing that not all pieces that bear the Patterson name need be duds. Candice Fox is one such author, who is a well-established author in her own right that I have come to read and enjoy. As Patterson continues to churn out novels faster than I do reviews, those involving Fox should not be lumped with many sub-par pieces of writing. Those familiar with this series will know all about Harriet Blue and her dedication to clear her brother’s name, as well as bring the actual killer to justice. Her backstory is riddled with emotional land mines from a life in foster care, which is handled effectively so as to draw the reader closer to her, always wondering if there are new pieces that might better explain the protagonist’s life. This novel turns the focus of Blue’s character development to finding Banks and ensuring he receives the punishment he has coming to him. The reader will likely enjoy the rollercoaster of emotions Blue exhibits as she tries to stay off the radar of authorities while turning this search into a vendetta fuelled by personal injustice. Banks is another character who has taken some of the spotlight, showing off what may have driven him to kill so freely and without a second thought. The reader can, should they choose, find crumbs of compassion for the man, though he is crafted as a wonderful antagonist and one that can be hated with ease. A handful of others shape the story as it turns from a manhunt into a desperate search for a cop who has lost her ability to think rationally. This gripping storyline will keep the reader flipping the pages of each short chapter and likely polishing off the novel in short order. Patterson has kept the cliffhanger formula to drive the reader to push onwards while Fox’s Australian influence can be seen throughout the plot. Well worth the time invested, though it should not take a reader with a gap of time in their schedule long to complete this intense thriller.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for keeping this series moving. How a BookShot (short story) could have morphed into such a series, I could not have predicted from the outset. I hope your collaborative work continues.

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

Redemption Point (Crimson Lake #2), by Candice Fox

Nine stars

Candice Fox is back with another thrilling story from the Australian Outback, building on her highly successful novel, Crimson Lake. Ted Conkaffey is still trying dodge the public eye and live off the grid, professing his innocence to the crime that has chased him from Sydney. The abduction and rape of 13 year-old Claire Bingley is still causing a stir all over the country. When Conkaffey is attacked in his own home by Claire’s father, pain surrounding the event resurfaces for both parties. Having been compiling any and all leads he can, Conkaffey offers up a folder, but it is rebuffed. When Conkaffey is summoned to a crime scene by his partner, PI Amanda Pharrell, he is intrigued to see what she’s found for them. It would seem that they’ve stumbled upon a new case, the murder of two bartenders, slain in the hours after work. Unsure whether the police will be able to do their job, a distraught father turned to Pharrell and is demanding answers. Rookie Detective Pip Sweeney is working her first case, having rising through the ranks after a number of her colleagues were implicated in a major crime spree. Armed with only her academy training and trying to run the scene, Sweeney turns to Conkaffey and Pharrell more than she ought to at times. While Pharrell is happy to pull in leads and play mind games with Sweeney, Conkaffey is trying to piece together some shards of his past life: a marriage that has all but disintegrated, a daughter who is scared of him, and no means to clear his name. Returning to give an interview on the crime and accusations, Conkaffey is railroaded by a news presenter who seeks the headlines before checking her sources. Luckily, there is a growing number who are certain that Conkaffey had nothing to do with Claire Bingley’s rape. Interspersed throughout the novel are diary entries by Kevin, which show a man’s personal obsession with young girls, including admissions that may be the key to Conkaffey’s exoneration. With two bodies and a crime that seems to have no concrete suspects, Conkaffey and Pharrell must work quickly before the case goes cold. Fox has outdone herself again with this piece, which exemplifies why she is top of the genre and sure to be a force for years to come. Recommended to those who love her work (solo and collaborative), as well as readers who love crime thrillers.

I am always excited to delve into a Candice Fox novel, as they tend to wrap me up and not slow their pace until the final sentence. Fox has the ability to use her native Australia and dazzle the reader with both description of the setting, as well as provide strong characters that offer unique backstories. Those familiar with the first novel in the series will know much about Conkaffey and Pharrel, who are central, yet quite diverse characters. In this piece, Fox delves more into Conkaffey’s personal situation and struggles to survive, still seen as one of Australia’s more horrid paedophiles. These struggles envelop him and the reader can see the struggle to simply live, veiled in the knowledge that he cannot clear his name independently. Pharrell shows off more of her zany style here, exemplified in her ongoing flip-flop about opening up and playing games with those around her. Introducing Pip Sweeney proves to be an effective means of bridging the two protagonists, allowing Conkaffey to know that his partner is still focussed on the case at hand while he battles his own demons and fights to clear his name. The other characters within the story help to complement the larger narrative and provide the reader with some entertainment while forging onwards to discover who may be behind both the double murder and Bingley’s assault. The story picks up soon after Crimson Lake left off, keeping the pace and development that series fans have come to expect. With quick chapters that leave the reader pushing onward late into the evening, the story reads extremely quickly and leaves them wanting more. Fox has laid the groundwork for future novels, sure to explore more of rural Australia.

Kudos, Madam Fox, for another stellar piece of work. I cannot praise you enough for your style and delivery. I hope many others discover your writing in the months to come.

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

Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue #2), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Nine stars

Candice Fox has teamed up with James Patterson again for the next instalment in the Harry Blue series, picking up soon after the cliffhanger of the series’ first full-length novel. Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue has a lot on her plate as a Detective Inspector within Sydney’s Sex Crimes Unit. However, nothing could prepare Harry for the arrest of her brother, Sam, as the Georges River Killer, perhaps one of Australia’s most sinister serial murderers. Sam professes his innocence and Harry cannot help but come to his aid. One morning, outside the courthouse, Harry loses her cool and pulls a stunt that places everything in jeopardy, including her career. Sent away to rural Australia again, Harry finds herself in the middle of nowhere, Last Chance Valley, to be specific. While driving his route, a trucker found a red backpack with an interesting personal journal inside. It lists a plan to wipe Last Chance off the map, alongside its seventy-five (yes, 75) residents. Harry works with the only cop in the town and receives a rude welcome when a bomb explodes and kills the former Chief of Police. Harry seeks to take charge, but its elbowed out of the way by Counter-Terrorism Task Force member, Elliot Kash. After some chest beating, Harry and Kash are able to come to some sort of agreement, albeit a fragile one. Back in Sydney, Harry’s partner, Detective Edward Whittacker, is trying to keep an eye on Sam’s trial, where some of the evidence is not making sense. On the day of Sam’s arrest, a new victim was taken, Caitlyn McBeal. While she does not meet the victimology of the others killed by the Georges River Killer, a university student got away and saw the killer grab her. McBeal is being held and may hold the key the entire case, though there are no solid leads. Whittacker is joined by a less than noble ‘Tox’ Barnes, who will stop at nothing to prove that Sam’s been framed for the crime. As Harry gets sporadic updates, she continues to seek answers about the journal and revels in the information it provides. Her interviews lead her towards a teenager with little to lose, who seems to be typecast as a terrorist because of his ancestry. While Harry is not entire sure which was is up, she’s come to realise that Last Chance Valley is a place where dreams die and differences spark retribution. As she seeks to obtain answers, someone is targeting her and starts putting the end plan into motion. Splitting her worry for Sam and the residents of Last Chance Valley down the middle, Harry will have to focus in order to bring justice for at least one of the cases. A wonderful follow-up story that keeps the reader hooked until the very end, Fox and Patterson prove to be an explosive team as they continue developing this new and exciting series. Fans of Fox’s work will see her flavour in the writing and likely enjoy it, though anyone who finds pleasure in a police procedural will likely applaud the effort.

From a kernel developed in the BookShots collection of short stories, Fox and Patterson come together for a wonderful early start to this series. Their writing styles have similarities, though I feel a strong thread of Fox’s writing in this story, set throughout Australia. Harry Blue is a tough character to crack, though she is revealed throughout the narrative, which offers both her empathetic side and a significant backstory offered in pieces throughout. Complemented by the likes of others, the story takes on a life of its own through the narrative, which seamlessly switches between the two locales and fleshes-out characters for the reader to love (or hate)! The story is well presented and while there may be some flights of fancy, it remains a firmly rooted piece of fiction that dedicates much of its time to the deserted areas of Australia, positing how this distance from ‘city life’ might create an odd persona for those living in Last Chance Valley. Fox and Patterson keep the intensity high as they allow the reader to see things through the eyes of the Georges River Killer, though are careful not to tip the narrative into revealing too much at once. The pace is great and the short chapters, for which Patterson is known, fuels an intense read that does not stop until the final cliffhanger. Brilliant in its execution, one can only hope that Patterson and Fox will continue their partnership, but also realise if Harry Blue is suffering from burnout, when the time comes.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for keeping me curious about what is to come. You work magic together, as well as showing you can stand alone and present great thrillers, given the time and effort.

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

Crimson Lake (Crimson Lake #1), by Candice Fox

Nine stars

Candice Fox returns with this debut novel in her new series, sure to leave readers disturbed, yet wanting more. Ted Conkaffey has a decent life as a police officer ruined in eight short minutes. When witnesses place him in direct contact with young Claire Bingley around the time of her sexual assault, he is presumed guilty and tossed to the wolves. When, mid-trial, the charges are dropped, Ted is left with the pall of being labelled a paedophile and must pick up the pieces of his shattered life. Going into hiding, Ted is eventually approached by his solicitor to move to the northern part of Australia, where he might be able to help one Amanda Pharrell with her private investigations business. After relocating, Ted discovers that Amanda has a past of her own, having served ten years for killing a classmate. While Amanda does not hide from her crime, Ted remains incognito and seeks to hide from the prying eyes of those in Crimson Lake. Amanda explains that she has been hired by the wife of popular author, Jake Scully, to track him down. The story goes that he rose in the middle of the night and was never seen again. Forensics show that Scully may have ended up food for the local croc population, though it is unclear if this was a freak accident or something deliberate. As they dig deeper, Ted and Amanda must face the facts of their respective crimes and show drastically different ways of coping. When an investigative journalist from Sydney comes sniffing around, Ted’s cover is eventually blown and he faces new rounds of local blowback for his apparent crime. Professing his innocence, Ted continues to forge on with the case, which leads to the possibility that there may be a super-fan out there who is unhappy with the lack of attention Jake Scully has been offering. The small-town police force of Crimson Lake is less than happy to have their toes stepped on and with the news that a ‘kiddie-fiddler’ is in the jurisdiction, Ted and Amanda face a large uphill battle to crack the case wide open, while also learning more about one another. Fox does a masterful job in this novel and pulls the reader into the depths of her writing and the rural areas of Australia. Perfect for fans of Candice Fox and those who enjoy a slightly twisted crime thriller.

I discovered the wonders of Candice Fox when she first contributed to the popular BookShots short story series. From there, it was a rush to devour more of her dark work that sheds light on Australia and some of its more loathsome criminal element. Fox is able to touch on those taboo areas of crime without pushing the envelope too far, done primarily through strong characters and a descriptive setting. Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell play wonderfully polar opposites in this novel, allowing the reader to see two sides of the same coin. The development of these characters includes much backstory and synthesising of their personal struggles, giving the reader much to enjoy and wonder about as the story progresses. Supported by a number of others, the two protagonists propel the story along and keep these unnumbered chapters from blurring together. The primary case in the novel is not overshadowed by those from the protagonists’ past, though all three work well in some form to keep the narrative evolving. The reader is able to digest what is going on without becoming too lost in the minutiae of each subplot, though there is a keen question that permeates the story, leaving the reader to wonder what actually happened. Fox’s ability to juggle all this is masterful and should not be discounted as a key reason that she is top of her genre. Clean and crisp in its presentation, Fox lures readers in as a patient croc might do along the banks of Crimson Lake, striking at just the right moment and not letting go until all is said and done.

Kudos, Madam Fox, for keeping me curious as you prepare to release the second novel in the series. It has the makings for an equally powerful experience.

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