In my mind, Candice Fox writes crime novels befitting adaptation by HBO, while Jame Patterson’s books are skewed towards network television.
By this I mean, Patterson has morphed into a franchise. He’s a guaranteed bestseller. But Fox is edgy; she writes non-conforming thrillers that don’t abide by the genre playbook. Patterson is the polar opposite: he is reliably entertaining, but he obeys certain rules: short chapters, expunged of detailed descriptions and digressions. His storytelling has a rhythm. Read enough of them and you begin to anticipate the cadences. Fox, meanwhile, throws out the sheet music each time. So I find their frequent collaborations fascinating.
“2 Sisters Detective Agency” is their latest, starring attorney Rhonda Bird, who returns home to LA to bury her dead father, only to discover a teenage half-sister she’s never heard of (and who she is now responsible for), and her father’s secret life as a private detective.
As Rhonda and Baby clash over their new reality, a case falls into their laps, involving a young man who claims he was abducted the night before, and narrowly escaped with his life. Rhonda is armed with a heck of a saviour complex and is determined to help; Baby, meanwhile, just wants to get on with her life.
Early on in the piece we are frequently reminded Rhonda isn’t your traditional heroine. She’s heroic and flawed, obviously — and she’s fat. While it’s great that mega-blockbuster fiction like this allows for protagonists beyond the conventional, the fat phobia of surrounding characters grates until the plot kicks into gear, and it’s enough to know Rhonda is fat without every moment being about her weight.
The case, of course, is trickier and deadlier than it first appears, involving a criminal syndicate that’s evolving into something far more lethal than their original modus operandi, and a retired assassin pulled back into the the fold. The narration bounces between various perspectives, and there’s some sleek character work in these pages as the morality of several characters blurs. Sure, this could’ve been developed further, but not without sacrificing the tempo; and Patterson’s thrillers are well-oiled machines designed for maximum page-turnability.
“2 Sisters Detective Agency” is ruthlessly engineered to give Patterson’s legions of fans precisely what they want. A sequel wouldn’t be unwelcome, but what I’m really waiting for is Fox’s next solo thriller.
Published: 28 September 2021
Imprint: Century Australia
Format: Trade Paperback