Ted Conkaffey – a working Sydney police officer with a wife and baby daughter – is wrongly arrested and charged with the rape of a thirteen year old girl. The case is abandoned due to lack of evidence. Ted is left in limbo, being neither acquitted nor found guilty and very soon finds himself without a job and having to abandon his family to protect them from any collateral blame and publicity.
And so Ted moves away to the wilds of New South Wales and a town called Crimson Lake, surrounded by alligator infested swamps and creeks.
Here, he is advised by his solicitor to seek out Amanda Pharrell, a private investigator who offers him a job. Amanda has her own issues, since she spent years in prison following her alleged murder of a school friend, a murder which many suspect she did not commit.
She invites Ted to help her with her current case. She has been hired to investigate the disappearance of Jake Scully, an author of popular Biblical paranormal romance novels, who unaccountably drove out in the middle of the night and never returned.
It’s a great rollercoaster of a novel with a well-varied cast of small town Australians, moody teenagers, menacing corrupt cops, drug dealers, and people with secrets.
Amanda and Ted’s investigations are paralleled by Ted’s determination to discover the truth behind Amanda’s murder charge, which she refuses to discuss, and his attempts to hide from a reporter and the local vigilantes.
Crimson Lake itself is a wonderful setting, and Fox does a brilliant job of evoking the reality of this remote town, existing on the edge of the wilds with alligators, snakes and human predators for neighbours.
One of the best detective novels I’ve read in ages. Recommended.