Candice Fox on her thriller, Devil’s Kitchen

Article | May 2024

CANDICE FOX is an award-winning writer who has cemented herself as a leading voice in the crime genre. Her novels include her ‘Archer & Bennett’ series, ‘Crimson Lake’ series, and ‘Harriet Blue’ series, which have been co-authored with bestselling crime writer James Patterson.

Her latest thriller, Devil’s Kitchen, is another nail-biting read which sees an undercover agent infiltrate a New York firefighting crew. AKINA HANSEN writes. 

 

Australian author Candice Fox has become a household name in the crime genre. Since publishing her first novel, Hades, to much acclaim, her career has continued to garner significant attention and success, from co-authoring seven New York Times bestsellers with James Patterson to winning three prestigious Ned Kelly Awards.

Her success has even traversed the literary landscape and into television, with her novel Crimson Lake getting adapted into a major ABC TV series, called ‘Troppo’.

But success didn’t always come easy to Candice and her road to becoming an author was met with many challenges and rejections. However, this simply compelled her to want to write more. 

‘Somebody told me I couldn’t do it, and that annoyed me. I was the outsider at school; my mother had six kids and fostered 155 while I was growing up, so our family was “that” weird family. I wrote to escape my reality, and when I started submitting work to publishers the feedback was that I wasn’t good enough, and that I didn’t fit. It was a familiar message, and one that inspired an “I’ll show you” attitude in me. I kept writing. Kept submitting. Wasn’t going to take no for an answer.’

Today Candice is the author of 10 internationally bestselling crime novels that have been shaped and influenced by her early years. 

‘The crime leanings come from my childhood, too. My father was a prison officer, and every one of those kids came with their own crime story.’

Devil's Kitchen by Candice FoxCandice’s latest novel, Devil’s Kitchen, proves to be another gripping and thrilling read. This time however, Candice explores the high stakes world of heists executed by some of the most respected individuals in society, firefighters. 

Undoubtedly, wilfully entering a blazing building that’s crumbling before your eyes takes a special kind of heroism. In fact, in less than 30 seconds a minor flame can turn into a major fire, engulfing a room with heat, smoke and sometimes toxic chemicals. Firefighters are trained to enter these sites carrying minimal oxygen and heavy equipment, to contain and extinguish fires, and locate and rescue people who may be trapped.  

Heroes. That’s what many in the community see them as. And while they don’t don capes, their fire-resistant uniforms speak for themselves.

It’s within this space that Candice Fox has set Devil’s Kitchen. In the fast-paced and bustling city of New York, the novel follows Ben, Matt, Engo and Jake – the firefighters of New York’s Engine 99. However, Candice delivers a twisty story that shows us the underbelly of this world. 

‘Firefighters are held with such good regard – as they should be. They’re iconic. Across my 19 previous novels, I hadn’t challenged myself to a heist yet. This book was a meeting of the desire to see that inherent good in the firefighter image subverted, and to give my take on the heist genre,’
says Candice. 

In Devil’s Kitchen we quickly learn that the crew have been moonlighting as thieves – intentionally setting fires to create a diversion as they use their insider knowledge of New York’s underground tunnels and access to specialised equipment to rob millions from jewellery stores, banks and galleries.

‘I went to New York and talked to real firefighters, which was difficult to do, because FDNY personnel are advised not to speak to writers and are exhausted with talking about their jobs in the post-9/11 world. I had to find firefighters who would not only give me the time of day but were happy to show me the seedy underbelly of their work. They were tough to find. I had a lot of doors slammed in my face. But I knew that just like in any profession, there are good and bad people. I just had to hunt them down, and I did.’

Candice’s first-hand experience loosely inspired the characters in her novel: Matt, the ringleader of the crew who lived and worked through the horror of 9/11; Engo, a vulgar and violent crook; Jake, the rookie with a serious gambling addiction, and finally, Ben, whose troubled past has led him down a darker path. 

‘I met and mixed in with a group of guys who were similar to Matt’s crew recently. I won’t say who they were because I don’t want to get sued. But the dynamic of these men made for a toxic, dangerous and hilarious environment that was really inspiring to observe and swirl around in for a while. The guys I met weren’t anywhere near as bad as Matt’s crew, but you have to dial the volume up for fiction.’

When Ben’s girlfriend, Luna, and her son disappear, he’s left reeling from their sudden departure, and he begins to question whether any of his crew are responsible. 

‘In this genre, people are at their worst. There’s no messing around here – criminal acts and the way people react to them bring out the darkest parts of humanity and put them on display. And that’s not just, for example, the callousness in the act of murder. It can be the selfishness or laziness a police officer displays in responding to that murder.’  

Indeed, Ben feels the force of this when he enlists the help of police to find Luna and her son but is met with little to no assistance and the case quickly becomes cold. Desperate for answers, Ben turns to the police again, but this time offering them intel on his crew in exchange for a serious investigation. This is where Andy enters. She’s an undercover operative who manages to weave herself into the crew with the help of Ben. 

‘I spoke to some cops who had done undercover work and learned of its physically and emotionally exhausting nature. It strikes me that a certain type of individual would want to engage in such work. The kind of person who’s happy to spend good slabs of time escaping who they are as a person, and never taking a break from their work. That kind of attitude fascinates me.’

It’s evident that Candice goes to great lengths for her novels, from interviewing serial killers on Death Row, visiting prisons, going to famous crime scenes, and for this novel, joining a firefighter crew. But it’s her perceptiveness and skills of observation that really shine through in her stories.

‘A lot of the time it’s not what a person is telling you that makes for the best research fodder. A guy can be sitting there answering your questions, but we’re human beings – we like to paint ourselves in the best light possible. It’s often the stuff in and around the interview that inspires me most. Someone’s gestures, choice of words, how they interact with others. I got a lot more from listening to a table of firefighters all sitting around talking about baseball than I would have peppering them with questions.’ 

Devil’s Kitchen is a fascinating look at the double lives people lead and how what you see, most definitely is not always what you get. •

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Candice Fox, author crime/thriller AustralianCandice Fox is the author of nine solo novels, three of which have one Australia’s prestigious Ned Kelly Award. All of her novels have been shortlisted for the award. She has multiple TV and film adaptations currently in production, including the adaptation of her bestselling Crimson Lake which hit screens as Troppo starring Thomas Jane and Nicole Chamoun.

In 2015, Candice began collaborating with James Patterson. Every one of their seven novels together have been New York Times bestsellers.

Candice lives in Sydney with her family and is a volunteer rescuer of injured wildlife.

Visit Candice Fox’s website

Author: Candice Fox

Category: Thriller / suspense

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: BANTAM AUSTRALIA ORIGINAL

ISBN: 9781761049019

RRP: $34.99

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