Review: Liar Liar by James Patterson & Candice Fox

9780143787471.jpgExhilaratingly professional work by both James Patterson and Candice Fox that breaks no new ground but will keep fans happy and add to their number.

Years back, in my review of Candice Fox’s debut Hades, I suggested readers should “expect to see Fox’s name on bestseller lists for a long time to come.” This, of course, was long before her partnership with the publishing phenomenon that is James Patterson.

I called its sequel, Eden, “a tier above  the books shelved beside Fox’s name.” And the final book in the Archer / Bennett trilogy, Fall; “Crime writing of the highest order.” So it’s no wonder then, following the publication of Crimson Lake, I insisted “Candice Fox has quickly established herself as one of our finest talents operating in the genre.” And with Redemption Point, I insisted “there is no author writing today more capable of producing such well-assembled time bombs that demand reading long past bedtime.”

So: fair to say I’m a big Candice Fox fan, then. Something about the ingredients of her work — a darkness, an edginess for sure; but also the idiosyncratic humour that punctuates the personalities of her characters… the Fox Factor just resonates with my particular sensibilities. In fact, let’s just say it now, get it out in the open: she is my favourite Australian crime writer, who produces brilliant-page-turner-after-brilliant page-turner year-after-year.

I’ve been less upbeat about the Harriet Blue series, co-written with megastar James Patterson. Never Never and Fifty Fifty have shown glimmers of the Fox Factor, but Patterson’s brand of storytelling — short chapters, a focus on propulsive narrative rather than character — have tended to whitewash the elements that make Fox’s books standouts. I enjoyed Never Never and Fifty Fifty without being blown away — and the same can be said of Liar Liar, which is furiously fast-paced and demands to be read in a single sitting, but lacks the resonance of Fox’s Archer / Bennett trilogy and the Conkaffey / Pharrell series.

Liar Liar concludes the storyline that ran through the preceding two books: Detective Harriet Blue’s hunt for her brother’s killer. Following events from the end of Fifty Fifty, Blue’s gone rogue, ditching her badge and her network of allies; a vengeful lone wolf with only one thing on her mind: revenge. Which puts her in the sights of an ambitious Deputy Commissioner, who is leading a task force to bring her down — with force, if necessary.  Little does Harriet know she is playing right into the hands of Regan Banks, the sadistic murderer responsible for brother’s death, who is determined to break Harriet, and awaken the killer inside her.

Events unravel fairly perfunctorily; unfortunately most of the book’s big reveals (save the final pages, which suggest a fourth book, and a cool change of the status quo) are telegraphed far in advance, particularly one character’s betrayal, which seemed obvious from her first appearance. There is an expediency to James Patterson’s stories — a rush to get to the blockbuster moments rather than focusing on the cartilage that connects them (which I think is Fox’s primary strength as a storyteller) — that makes his stories unfold fever dreams that ultimately fade from memory. Liar Liar will satisfy his legion of fans, and indeed obliterated the final hours of my day. But for me, it’s merely an hors d’oeuvre before Candice Fox’s next thriller. As is always the case nowadays when I put down a James Patterson thriller — having lapped up his Alex Cross series in my teens and early twenties — I was left wishing there was less bark and more bite.

ISBN: 9780143787471
Format: Paperback (232mm x 154mm x 29mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Century Australia
Publisher: Random House Australia
Publish Date: 30-Jul-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

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