Published: 27th May 2015
Published: Penguin Books Australia
Format: Ebook courtesy of Netgalley & Publisher.
In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is living under an assumed name and rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown’s youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and a chance to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark.
After tragedy tore her family apart, Kristy fled to Cooktown with her feisty teenage daughter, Abby. She hoped being part of the small community would help them both heal, but Abby’s sports coach is turning out to be a compelling distraction.
When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger in Cooktown. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they’ll both lose someone they love.
Helene Young’s novels are highly addictive, fast paced and full of passion and intrigue. It only took me a few pages of her latest release, Northern Heat, to realise that his novel was going to be no different, in that regard, to her five previous novels. So if you like strong, passionate characters, fantastic writing and a story that will both move you and leave you wanting more, than this is the perfect book for you.
For those who’ve read Safe Harbour, you’ll already be familiar with our leading male, Conor (don’t worry if you haven’t read Safe Harbour, you can read this one as a stand alone). Conor is in Cooktown, living on a boat and teaching the kids basketball team in his spare time. But Conor has a secret; he’s in Cooktown for one reason only, and that’s to seek revenge for the death of his wife and daughter. Having adopted an alias whilst in town, Conor buys his time waiting for any leads to appear, but then he meets the mother of one of the girls on his team, his life is thrown into a tale spin of epic proportions. Now the sole witness to a murder, and having gained the distrust of a stubborn small town cop who will do anything to solve the mystery of his true identity, Conor’s life has never been more complicated. The stakes in life and love have never been higher, and it’s up to Conor to decide what’s more important.
Dr. Kristy moved to Cooktown with her teenage daughter Abby to escape the trauma of her families past. Still living with the grief that comes with losing your son and husband in the space of a year, she’s hoping the small town can put her back together again, or at least find some sense of stability for her thirteen-year-old daughter Abby. A goal she thought she might be making headway on as Abby’s making friends and is happiest when on the basketball court. With the past wrongs fresh in her mind, and the heavy burden of survivors guilt and dark secrets resting heavy on her shoulders, Cooktown may just yet prove to be anything but safe for Kristy and Abby, especially when it comes to a certain basketball coach.
As I’ve come to expect from a Helene Young novel, the character’s in this narrative are both strong and resilient, but also plagued by past secrets that continue to haunt them today. They are both stubborn and cautious, deeply passionate and protective, leading both Kristy and Conor to fight their obvious attraction at the start. Although this novel is fast paced and the stakes are often life and death, Young has gone to great lengths to make sure that the relationship between these two characters develops at a slow and natural pace. Albeit it may be heightened by their surrounds and the chaotic happenings at the time.
Helene Young has never shied away from serious and/or topical issues in her books (Boarder Watch series alone dealt with issues of Security Intel issues, coastal boarder patrol limits, arsonists and isolated areas etc…) and Northern Heat is no different in that respect. For once again Helene Young takes us back to Northern Queensland, in particular to Cooktown, where the small rural community is getting ready for a cyclone to hit their doorsteps. Not only does she deal with the limits and dangers placed upon small communities when facing such a fierce natural predator, but she’s gone a step further and included the issues of domestic violence and it’s impact both on individuals in the family sphere, but also on the community at large. All of which are combined and told through an explosive and whirlwind narrative that is sure to have you on the edge of your seat.
With the majority of the east coast of Australia (myself included) having recently survived weather conditions very similar to those described in the book, I think a lot of people will be able to relate to a lot of the character’s reactions in this book, particular when it comes to things like fear and isolation – albeit, perhaps not so much the murder aspect. By saying this I don’t mean to lesson the severity of cyclones up in northern Queensland, but having been battered by rain and cyclonic winds in the recent storms, I was able to relate to this book on a whole other level. The fierceness of the wind and constant hounding of the rain was insane, and I can see why it would make such a perfect setting to have everything implode within this narrative.
When Northern Heat releases on May 27, I suggest you clear your schedule ASAP. For when Helene Young masterfully, and effortlessly I might add, revs up the narrative’s suspense by positioning Conor and Kristy’s growing sexual awareness and chemistry alongside the town’s underlying criminal activities, that just so happen to come to a head during the building cyclone (Cyclone Kate), you won’t want to spare a second on anything but this narrative. For it’s just that good.
Believe me, you won’t want to miss this one.