Review: Hades by Candice Fox

HadesHADES is a dark and brutal debut crime novel by Australian author Candice Fox, and the beginning of the Bennett/Archer series. It’s distinguished by its heroes and its villains, and the fine line that separates the two. Indeed, HADES is at its best when it explores the moral spectrum and how childhood impacts adulthood, and sets the course for our lives, an irrepressible undercurrent that is impossible to escape from, leading us to an inevitable end.

The procedural elements of HADES are fairly underwhelming, albeit queasily gruesome at times, and the methodology and mindset of the serial killer is somewhat innovative: he murders for body parts, and offers these organs to those in need of them, providing the DIY surgeries himself – for an inflated price, of course. It’s a kind of warped Robin Hood attitude with a horrific twist. But as pitiless as the killer is, the hunt to bring him to justice is formulaic: confidently penned, no question, but hardly revolutionary.

The sheer depravity of the villain is necessary however, as it provides contrast for the novel’s protagonists, none of which are likable, but are white knights in comparison. Eden, Eric, Hades and Frank are all uniquely flawed, but we root for them because the evil force they’re combatting is far worse. Eden and Eric – children of Hades Archer, the Lord of the Underworld, who’ve grown up to become police detectives – have evil inside them, a burning desire to do wrong. For the most part they control it, and transfer their violent impulses to those they deem worthy of receiving it. But evil is cancerous. It festers inside, and Fox deftly handles their struggle to inhibit their dispositions. As readers, we know it’s only a matter of time before they seek release. We just hope it’s on someone deserving.

The straightforward serial killer / organ stealer plotline serves as the foundation on which the author can liberally punctuate with character moments. Fox niftily weaves the narrative between the past and present, and effortlessly shifts between character perspectives. Frank Bennett is really the focal point: we witness events primarily through his eyes, told through stylish first person narration that occasionally resonated Chandler. Frank is flawed, but his aren’t as exaggerated as his fellow detectives. He’s a normal man who has made mistakes; inevitably, we come to believe, because of his occupation and its cyclic nature, buried amongst the worse of humankind, day in, day out. Fox leaves him in a very interesting place at the end of the novel, setting up future Bennett/Archer novels, of which a second is currently being penned, and is scheduled for release in December 2014.

HADES is a stunning debut. Take it at face value – a ruthless, addictive page-turner – or take it slow and contemplate its deeper themes. You’re in for a treat either way. With a single novel, Candice Fox has demonstrated her prowess. Expect to see her name on bestseller lists for a long time to come.

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