Publisher: Bantam Press (Trade Paperback – 30 March 2021)
Length: 449 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Australian thriller author Candice Fox returns with another fast-paced and intriguing thriller novel, this time utilising an extremely fun prison break premise to create The Chase, a compelling and addictive read.
Candice Fox is a bestselling Australian author who debuted in 2014 with Hades, the first novel in her Archer & Bennett trilogy, a fantastic Australian crime series that followed two very damaged detectives. She then followed that up with her Crimson Lake trilogy, as well as collaborating on the Detective Harriet Blue series with James Patterson. Since then Fox, has written a couple of standalone crime fiction novels set in America, including the 2020 release Gathering Dark, which is the only previous novel of Fox’s that I have read and which proved to be a fun and fantastic book. As a result, I was interested in reading more of Fox’s work, especially after I saw what kind of story her new novel would feature.
When more than 600 of the world’s most violent human beings pour out from Pronghorn Correctional Facility into the Nevada Desert, the biggest manhunt in US history begins.
But for John Kradle, this is his one chance to prove his innocence, five years after the murder of his wife and child.
He just needs to stay one step ahead of the teams of law enforcement officers he knows will be chasing the escapees down.
Death Row Supervisor turned fugitive-hunter Celine Osbourne is single-minded in her mission to catch Kradle. She has very personal reasons for hating him – and she knows exactly where he’s heading . . .
I am sure that I was not the only person drawn in by The Chase’s cool plot synopsis, I mean, 600 convicts escaping from prison at the same time, who can resist that? I really enjoyed this book’s awesome story and I ended up finishing the entirety of The Chase in just over a day. This was mainly because The Chase had such a strong and captivating start to it, with someone using deadly blackmail to instigate a mass breakout as cover to free one unknown prisoner. This was one of the more awesome starts to a novel that I have seen, and I really loved the initial moments of this story, with the prisoners all heading off in various directions, including protagonist John Kradle, while other protagonist Celine Osbourne is left in shambles with all her Death Row charges escaping.
Fox soon breaks this narrative up into several smaller stories; you follow Kradle as he makes his escape, you also see Osbourne dealing with the fallout of the escape, and there are short descriptions of some of the other escapees and the people that encounter them. The main two storylines surrounding Kradle and Osbourne continue in an awesome way towards the middle of the book. I had a great time seeing Kradle attempt to evade the police and overcome an insane killer who is tagging along with him, while also heading home to solve the murder of his wife and child. Osbourne’s story was also very compelling, as it details some of the initial hunts for the escaped fugitives, the investigation into who was responsible for the breakout, and the start of Osbourne’s obsessive hunt for Kradle. The various smaller stories of the other escapees prove to be fun interludes to the main narratives, and Fox also includes key flashbacks to enrich the backstory of her central protagonists and showcase the reasons for emotional and combative history with each other.
Unfortunately, I found the last half of The Chase to be somewhat of a letdown after its outstanding beginning. Kradle’s hunt for his family’s killer soon becomes one of the least interesting parts of the entire book, especially as it has no connection with the wider breakout. His investigation is also loaded with way too many coincidences, unusually helpful witnesses, and strange motivations. The eventual reveal of the killer was honestly pretty weak, and Kradle’s entire storyline only concludes satisfactorily due to a serendipitous appearance from a supporting character. I was also not amazingly impressed with the identity of the person behind the prison escape, and I think that Fox missed a few opportunities, such as maybe tying Kradle’s personal investigation into a larger conspiracy. Still, there were some fantastic highlights in this second half of the book, including Osbourne’s gradually changing relationship with Kradle, the action-packed conclusion to Osbourne’s hunt for the organisers of the prison break, as well as the extended and entertaining storyline of one escapee who managed to make the most of their situation. While I would have loved a couple more extended storylines about some other outrageous inmates, I think that this was an overall good narrative, and I did have a lot of fun getting to the end.
I did really enjoy several of the characters featured in this fantastic novel. The most prominent of these is John Kradle, the Death Row inmate accused of killing his wife and son. Kradle is a likeable character, and you are quickly drawn into his desperate hunt for the person who framed him. Fox makes great use of several flashback sequences to explore Kradle’s past, which paints an intriguing picture of a former recluse who eventually finds love and ends up raising a son by himself. The reader does a feel a lot of sympathy for this unusual character, and he proves to be a fun protagonist to follow. The other major character in The Chase is the supervising prison guard of Pronghom Correctional Facility’s Death Row, Celine Osbourne. Osbourne is a strong and independent character who becomes obsessed with hunting Kradle and dragging him back to Death Row. I really enjoyed Osbourne as a character, especially as Fox comes up with a very traumatic and clever backstory for her that perfectly explains her obsession. Both lead characters serve as perfect focuses for The Chase’s narrative, and I had a great time seeing how their arcs unfolded, even if one was a little weaker than the other.
Fox also made use of several great side characters throughout The Chase. My favourite is probably street hustler Walter Keeper, better known as Keeps, the one inmate at Pronghom who did not escape, as he was due to be released. Keeps is dragged into Osbourne’s hunt for Kradle somewhat against his will due to his knowledge and intelligence. Keeps serves as a good supporting act to Osbourne for much of the book, although his character arc goes in some very entertaining and ironic directions as the narrative progresses. I also quite enjoyed tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, US Marshal Trinity Parker, who leads the manhunt. Parker is a very entertaining character who serves as a perfect foil to Osbourne’s obsessions, mainly due to her absolute refusal to take any BS from her. While I do think that Parker was a little over-the-top at times, she was still a fun addition to the cast. The final character I want to talk about is one of the escapees, Old Axe. Axe is a geriatric inmate who escapes from Pronghom on a whim and slowly makes his way to freedom. I quite enjoyed the various sequences that highlighted Axe’s escape efforts, even if they were tinged with a sinister edge, but his arc was one of the more distinctive parts of the book. All these characters were great, and I was really impressed that Fox was able to introduce them, build up their backstory and also provide satisfying conclusions for all of them in just one novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Chase and I felt that Candice Fox wrote a very entertaining and compelling narrative. While this book did have its flaws, I had a fantastic time getting through it and readers will find it very hard to put this exciting novel down. This was an awesome and addictive thriller, and I cannot wait to see what this amazing Australian author comes up with next.