Candice Fox's first book, Hades won the Ned Kelly Australian Crime Fiction Award for best first novel. It was a deserving win. Fox's visceral take on the serial killer procedural was a slick reworking of familiar crime elements into something both compulsive and disturbing. In Eden, Fox takes on the challenge of the difficult second novel. She returns to the characters she created in Hades and manages, successfully, to give them deeper, fuller lives.
The events in Eden follow on directly from the end of Hades. While it is not essential to have read the first book in the series it definitely helps in orientation. Policeman Frank Bennett is in an alcohol-fuelled hole following the events of the previous book. His partner, Eden Archer, is trying to get him out of that hole so they can pursue another potential serial killer. Meanwhile, Eden’s crimelord father, Hades, is having trouble of his own as his past comes back to haunt him.
Fox, once again, uses a variety of points of view. Frank’s narrative is first person, dealing with his self-pity and self-destructive tendencies at war with a better nature. Eden and some supporting characters get third person narratives. In amongst these are flashback pieces that detail Hades’ violent, criminal past, starting life as a homeless child on the streets of Sydney in the late 1950s. In Hades some of these switches in narrative voice, particularly to the killer and his victim, sometimes felt a little clichéd. But in Eden this aspect of the novel works effectively and the three stranded plot – historical narrative, cold case and current case – are well paced
Eden is not a comfortable read. Fox visits some dark places – the camp where Eden goes undercover to catch a killer, the mean streets of Kings Cross in the 1960s, Hades junkyard used for the disposal of unwanted bodies. And none of her characters are particularly likeable, either, but they are believable within Fox’s world and explored with depth and richness and understanding.
In Eden, Fox does what many crime series dealing with the pursuit of serial killers fail to do. She steps away from the easy route of chronicling the investigation into another violent, twisted personality and their victims. Instead, she uses the story to focus on the lives of her protagonists. This is a second novel that builds on and considerably broadens the scope of the first and leaves an intriguing, dangling plot thread to be picked up in the next instalment.