I’ve just finished the most peculiar of books.
It was mesmerising, deep, dark, twisted. A brilliant crime novel and one that was recognised with the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014 from the Australian Crime Writers Association. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Hades, by Candice Fox was good. Better than good. The reason I say it was peculiar is wholly down to the characters.
There are four main protagonists, with a healthy helping of intriguing incidentals, but these four, comprising three cops and a father figure, might just be the most disturbing collection of broken, damaged and despicable characters to leap from a page. The best I can say of them is the father, the eponymous ‘Hades’ of the book’s title, is the most likeable of the quartet and you wouldn’t invite him to dinner anytime soon.
The other three, from the totally obnoxious bully Eric, to his twisted sister Eden Archer and her cop partner Frank Bennett caused me to feel frustration, dislike and, for Eric especially, an anger bordering on hatred. Now, when an author can make you feel that about their characters then you know you’re onto a winner. To be completely honest, the only character I actually felt a modicum of kindness towards, was a small cameo by a dying patient whose attitude to the Wiggles made me want to go visit the man and shake his hand.
Intriguingly, none of those I have mentioned is the main ‘criminal’ in what is an exceptionally gruesome murder plot running throughout the book. That in itself I found compelling. A plot that would have been the core emotional impact in any other crime novel was somehow, and with an exquisite skill to the writing, made to be an incidental also-ran.
I finished the book in about two sessions. I almost inhaled it, if I’m honest and when it came to its conclusion I was grateful that Candice Fox has already written the two follow-ups to it. Another case of me coming to an author late in their production run and another case of me being pleased that I can now binge out on their previously published works. Simply going by this first exposure to her writing, I can readily understand why Fox is being hailed in Australia and much, much further afield as an amazing talent and it is not a shock that James Patterson wanted to collaborate with her.
So, if you like your crime dark and foreboding, with twists and turns and characters that will get under your skin, look no further. As for me, the 2nd book, Eden is up next. I can’t wait to discover another set of uncomfortable, perplexing and unputdownable characters of dubious moral standing.
Ian Andrew is the author of the alternative history novel A Time To Every Purpose, the detective thrillers Face Value and Flight Path and the Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses. All are available in e-book and paperback. Follow him on social media: