Hades, Candice Fox
Publisher: Random House Australia
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Tags: Psychological, Graphic Violence
Length: 352 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
‘You’re going to have trouble with them,’ the man said, his hand on the door. ‘They’re not right.’
First of all, this review site mostly concentrates on LGBT writing, but we do branch out on occasion when a premise catches our eye. Hades blurb caught mine. Set in Sydney and written by a fellow Sydneysider, it is a crime novel with dark and psychological themes. It also has a fabulous cover and as I’m a known cover fetishist, I had to read Hades.
The very beginning of Hades is quite riveting and dark and sets the tone for the rest of the book. Hades lives out the back of Camden (south west Sydney) he salvages materials from his tip, makes flamingos and foxes etc. out of them. He’s also a fixer. He’ll put someone in a grave, generally for a fee, because he knows how to fix people, permanently. People usually come to him with, “I’ve made a mistake.” One night, though, it’s not so cut and dry with the the two little mistakes that land at his door and the circumstances in which they arrive. It is one integral part of Hades, hence the name. But he isn’t the primary focus. That doesn’t matter, his enigmatic personality and his brand of care really does permeate the pages. His decision twenty years ago sets some events in motion –
The man named Hades put two bullets into the stranger. The stranger’s confused eyes fixed on Hades, his hands grabbing at the holes in his body. Hades put the gun back down on the counter and lifted the scotch to his lips. The night birds had stopped their moaning and only the sound of the stranger dying filled the air.
The narrative of the book, in current day, belongs to Frank Bennett. Frank is the new homicide detective-on-the-block at Sydney Metro. He is excited to be in amongst big cases. He is intrigued about his beautiful, cool, and aloof new partner, Eden Archer. The unit are currently investigating the disappearance of an eleven year old girl, probably dead, but there are also ‘war tales’ to seek out from detectives who (reportedly) worked on the Ivan Milat backpacker murders – part of our very real recent crime history. His new partner’s brother, Eric, is another Sydney Metro detective. Eric is aggressive, a smart-arse who takes particular interest in everyone – knowing who they are, their secrets, how he can needle them the most. Eric is, for all appearances, gregarious, but he doesn’t seem to actually like people. And he certainly doesn’t like Frank. The barbs between and Eric and Frank run throughout the book –
‘You make (Eden) your friend and it’s a conflict of interest. The job’s about being impartial. If someone threatened her, you’d have to be able to watch her suffer for the protection of others.’
‘Maybe we should be partners,’ I smiled brightly. ‘I’d love to watch you suffer.’
(Eric) sneered. I took a deep breath. I’d let myself be sucked in again, into the pettiness of a meaningless rivalry.
Frank and Eden are called to Watsons Bay where a banged-up junkie tells of being weighed down with a chain attached to a tradies toolbox and thrown into the harbour. They find it hard to believe his story, he isn’t exactly a credible source. How did he get away and back to the surface if he had been anchored down? He says that toolboxes were dumped by some guy he didn’t get a good look at – he was there thinking he might be able to steal some cash for a fix. More police are called in, including scuba divers, and, voila, there are the toolboxes with twenty bodies in them.
The discovery sets off several arcs in the story – the disappearance of eleven year old Courtney Turner, the disturbed and disturbing story of Jason Beck, and the story of one live victim, Marina Ducote. With an ongoing investigation centred around organ theft –
‘So what we’ve got to ask ourselves is whether we believe this guy’s chopping pieces out of his victims as part of a psychotic ritual or as part of organised transplant operation.’
The investigation continues while the backstory of Eden and Eric, and an old hand-written note with six names, builds throughout.
I can’t say a lot about this book because it will spoil it. But I will say several things. Candice Fox knows Sydney. She also painted the incontrovertible Aussie fascination with people like Hades subtly and well. I loved Hades, but he is certainly no saint and very flawed. No matter, he is someone the Aussie in me identifies with. The Aussie in me who always cheers at stories about Ned Kelly. The Sydney police are painted so accurately. I’ll leave it at that. There is also their non-pc coffee mugs, their inappropriate jokes at murder sites, their, at times, lack of care and the fact that they have to see things that people really shouldn’t ever see. Things that tend to harden people and make them look for the bad in people –
There are some things you know you will never be able to unknow, to unsee. In this job you don’t talk about them. You don’t think about them. You collect them, carefully and deliberately, until your retirement from the force, at which time you have every right – no, you are expected – to completely lose your shit, to become one of those vile, unforgiving old men who no one can stand.
The writing is stark, brutal, and humorous at times – Frank Bennett’s running analogy about the owls and the detectives made me smile – and it is sharp, intimately understanding people in and around the underbelly of society, no matter the address. There is only one niggle I had but I can’t discuss it because it gives plot away.
Hades is written by a very promising (crime fiction) writer. Candice Fox has written leads who are flawed and murky at best, but I enjoyed reading about them. However, this is not an easy read – there is violence and there are some horrible crimes, scenes, people, and events contained in Hades pages. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This book is not for the faint of heart. Although I have pointed out some quintessential Australian aspects, Hades is written for all crime novel lovers, irrespective of country. I keenly look forward to Eden, which will be released in December, 2014.
Review copy supplied by Random House via Netgalley