Crimson Lake


How do you move on when the world won’t let you?

12:46: Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop

12:47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her

12:52: The girl is missing…

Six minutes in the wrong place at the wrong time—that’s all it took to ruin Sydney detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of a brutal abduction, Ted is now a free man—and public enemy number one. Maintaining his innocence, he flees north to keep a low profile amidst the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

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How do you move on when the world won’t let you?

12:46: Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop

12:47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her

12:52: The girl is missing…

Six minutes in the wrong place at the wrong time—that’s all it took to ruin Sydney detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of a brutal abduction, Ted is now a free man—and public enemy number one. Maintaining his innocence, he flees north to keep a low profile amidst the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

There, Ted’s lawyer introduces him to eccentric private investigator Amanda Pharrell, herself a convicted murderer. Not entirely convinced Amanda is a cold-blooded killer, Ted agrees to help with her investigation, a case full of deception and obsession, while secretly digging into her troubled past. The residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move…and the town offers no place to hide.

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  • Forge Books
  • Hardcover
  • March 2018
  • 352 Pages
  • 9780765398482

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About Candice Fox

Candice Fox

Candice Fox is the award-winning author of Crimson Lake and Redemption Point. She is also co-writer with James Patterson of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Never NeverFifty Fifty, and the forthcoming Liar Liar. She lives in Sydney.

Author Website


“Compelling…boasts full-bodied characters, suspense with a quirky edge, and a strong sense of place.”Booklist (starred review)

“A brilliantly calculated mystery thriller…filled with gripping tension and raw emotion….Crimson Lake is a compelling read that is sure to leave an impact after the last page.”RT Book Reviews

“A bright new star of crime fiction—inventive, thrilling, and totally addictive.”James Patterson

“A masterful novel that teases right up to its final page. Definitely a writer to watch.”Harlan Coben 

“This is one of the best crime thrillers of the year. Sign me up as a big-time Fox fan!”Lee Child

Discussion Questions

1. Crimson Lake follows three plots at once―Jake Scully’s disappearance, Ted’s arrest, and Amanda’s criminal history. How does Fox weave these plots together as the book unfolds? Were there connections between them that you sensed before the author revealed them? How does the writer balance the three stories―or was there one that you found pulled more strongly at your attention? Were you surprised by the intensity with which Ted and Amanda devoted themselves to one another’s cases?

2. Characters living double lives dominate Crimson Lake. Whose shadow lives do we follow? What consequences do their secrets have for the people closest to them? What are those secrets doing to their own sense of safety or sanity―are these characters oppressed or protected by the truths they are hiding?

3. Throughout the story, there are some communities that serve as havens, and some that serve as prisons. Do any of these settings serve both purposes at once? How did Amanda fare in prison? What parallels do you see to Ted’s experience in Crimson Lake? To what degree can the factors that confine us sometimes also keep us safe?

4. When he is arrested, Ted finds that as evidence quickly mounts, his family and his colleagues almost instantly give up on him. Were you surprised by this betrayal? Do you think this experience might have been any different if Ted and his colleagues were not police officers? At what points in the story did you yourself believe Ted―and were there any points at which your belief in him wavered?

5. Fox pointedly describes Ted’s suffering as Kelly’s belief in him disappears in the weeks following his arrest. Were you surprised by Kelly’s response? Do you think that Ted has forgiven her by the story’s end, and would you be able to do the same? How do her shifting loyalties affect your belief in Ted’s innocence or guilt throughout the novel?

6. Amanda Pharrell is a character defined by contradictions. How much of the present-day Amanda is left over from Fox’s descriptions of her as a teenager―and how much is a product of the trauma she endured? What do you think enabled her to survive prison and then to make a new life for herself? Does she remind you of anyone in your own life, and what strengths and vulnerabilities does she share with that person?

7. Vigilantes figure prominently in Ted’s story, as is often the case when someone has been accused of child sexual abuse. What feelings did the vigilantes who pursued Ted bring up in you? Where are the lines between personal freedom and community safety? How do you think you might have responded if Ted had moved into your community?

8. At several points, Ted’s fate rests entirely on the weight of circumstantial evidence and the reliability of other people’s memories. How does the idea of memory, and the power it can have over present-day lives, echo through the book? What purposes does memory serve for Ted, and for Amanda? Have you ever been in a situation in which your memory was called on in a way that might determine someone else’s fate?

9. Though he is dead before Crimson Lake begins, Jake Scully looms large in this storyline. Does the author paint a full portrait of him? What was your reaction to Jake’s decision to bury his homosexuality even more deeply once he became wealthy and famous? How do you think his secrets contributed to making Stella and Harry who they are when we meet them?

10. The media emerges as one of the most powerful background characters in Fox’s novel. What role do they play in Ted’s fate? In Amanda’s life? What do you think Fabiana’s motivations are when we first meet her, and then as her character unfolds? In a story like Ted’s, in which a child is the victim, what do you think the responsibilities of the press are? How do they work with―and counterbalance ―the investigations that police are conducting?

11. At more than one point in the story, Fox poses a basic question about identity and change: Are some life events so impactful that the person who survives them may never again be who they previously were? To which characters in Crimson Lake do you think this question applies? How does each of them respond to such a fundamental shift in the way they have always identified themselves, and been perceived, in the world? What might your reactions be―and who do you think you might become―if you found yourself in their position?


I didn’t know Sean was there until his shadow fell over me. I jolted, grabbed my gun. I’d fallen asleep in my usual place on the porch, spread out against the wall on an old blanket. For a moment I thought an attack was coming.

“This is a sorry sight,” my lawyer said. The morning light was already blazing behind him.

“You look like an angel,” I said.

“What are you doing sleeping out here?”

“It’s glorious,” I groaned, stretched. It was true. The hot nights on the porch behind the mosquito netting were like a dream. The roll of distant thunder. Kids laughing, lighting fires on the faraway bank. The old blanket was about as thick as the mattress I’d had in segregation.

Sean looked around for a chair on which to place his expensively fabricked backside. When he didn’t see one he went to the step, put the coffees he’d been carrying and the bag on his elbow on the wood and started brushing off a spot. Even in the Cairns humidity there was some silk in his ensemble, as always. I sat up and joined him, scratched my scalp awake. I’d placed Woman and her young in the cardboard box turned on its side in a corner of the porch, a door made out of a towel. The big goose hissed at the sound of us from behind the towel and Sean whipped around.

“Don’t tell me—”

“It’s a goose,” I said. “Anser domesticus.”

“Oh, I thought it was a snake.” The lawyer gripped at his tie, flattened and consoled it with strokes. “What the hell have you got a goose for?”

“Geese, actually. It’s a long story.”

“They always are with you.”

“What are you doing up here? When did you get here?”

“Yesterday. I’m heading to Cairns, so I thought I’d stop by. Got a sexual assault defendant who’s jumped bail. I’m going to try to talk him back down. Everybody flees north.”

“If you’ve got to hide, it’s better to do it where it’s warm.”

“Right.” Sean looked at me. “Look, good news, Ted. Not only have I brought my favorite client a delightful care package, but as of this morning your assets are officially defrosted. They took the block off your bank account this morning.”

“Just in time,” I said. “I’m down to my last few bucks. Those birds are officially the most expensive thing I own.”

The white-haired man handed me a plastic bag of goodies. Inside were a couple of paperbacks and some food items. I didn’t have the heart to tell him about my fridgeless state. There was an envelope of forms as thick as a dictionary in the bag. He took one of the coffees and handed it to me. It smelled good, but it wasn’t hot. There wasn’t anything at all within twenty minutes’ drive of the house, certainly nowhere that made a decent cup of coffee. It didn’t matter. The scary forms and the cold coffee couldn’t possibly dampen my joy at seeing Sean. There were about twenty-one million people in Australia who believed I was guilty of my crime. And one silk-clad solicitor who didn’t.

“I imagine there’s something in that envelope from Kelly,” I said.

“Adjustments to the divorce settlement. Again. Semantic stuff. She’s stalling.”

“It’s almost as though she wants to stay married to me.”

“No. She just wants to watch you wriggle.”

I sipped the coffee and looked at the marshlands. It was flat as glass out there, the mountains on the other side blue in the morning haze.

“Any sign of…?” I cleared my throat.

“No, Ted. No custody inclusions. But she doesn’t have to rush, she can do that any time.”

I stroked my face. “Maybe I’ll grow a beard,” I said.

We considered the horizon.

“Well, look at you. I’m proud of you,” Sean said suddenly. “You’re a single, handsome, thirty-nine-year-old man starting all over again with a rental house and a few too many pets. You’re not really that much worse off than a lot of guys out there.”

I snorted. “You’re delusional.”

“Serious. This is your opportunity for a do-over. A clean slate.”

I sighed. He wasn’t convincing either of us.

“So are they guard geese?” he asked, changing the subject.

I had to think for a moment what he meant.

“The Nazis used geese to guard their concentration camps,” he explained.

“That so?”

“Can I take a look?”

I waved. He approached the box cautiously, squatted and lifted the towel with manicured fingers. He wore houndstooth socks. Probably alpaca. I heard Woman squeal from the gloomy depths. Sean laughed.

“Wowsers,” he said.

“All still alive?” I asked.

“Looks like it.” Sean glanced at me. “You looking for work?”

“Not yet. Too soon.”

The little geese pipped and shuffled around in the box. Claws on cardboard. He left them alone.

“Would you do me a favor?” Sean said.


“Would you check out a girl in town named Amanda Pharrell?”

“Would I check out a girl?” I looked at him, incredulous.

“A woman,” Sean sighed and gave me an apologetic smile. “Will you pay a visit to a woman in town?”

“Who is she?”

“Just a woman.” Sean shrugged.

“What do I want to visit her for?”

“You’re full of questions. Stop asking questions. Just do what I tell you. She’ll be good for you, that’s all. Not to date. Just to meet.”

“So it’s not romantic in any way.”

“No,” Sean said.

“Then what the hell is it?”

“Jesus, Ted,” he laughed, before offering an adage he’d used many times during my trial prep. “I’m your lawyer. Don’t ask me why. Just do it.”

I made no commitment.

We sat for a while talking about what he was doing in Cairns and how long he’d stay. Sean was sweating through his linen trousers. His poreless nose was burned already by the sneaky tropical sun, slowly cooking the unwary Sydney man through the wet air. I’d managed a nut-brown tan just trudging around the property for a month, walking to the shopping center to buy Wild Turkey. I hoped I’d fit in eventually. That I’d grow safely unrecognizable from the man who had graced the cover of the Telegraph for weeks at a time, the broad-shouldered ghoul in a suit hanging his head outside the courthouse, pale from jail. A beard might do it, I thought. And time. I’d need plenty of time.


Copyright © 2017 by Candice Fox