Book Review: Northern Heat by Helene Young
Northern Heat has everything I should want in a book. Australian author, set in a far north Queensland town not far from where I live, romance, mystery, natural disasters, yachts, and mature main characters. I should have lapped this up with a spoon. But… Yes, there’s a but.
The novel opens with our hero, Conor, witnessing a shooting. Our heroine, Kristy, is a doctor and on hand to help. Conor and Kristy were already acquainted at this stage; he is her daughter Abby’s basketball coach at the local PCYC, and apparently they’ve flirted and have chemistry. I know this because Young told me. I’m afraid I never really read any evidence of this flirting or chemistry. And I must admit I felt a little cheated that they had no ‘meet cute’, not even in flashback.
Anyway, the plot moves on, with Conor and Kristy being thrown together a few more times as they start to unravel the book’s ‘mystery’. Their mutual friend Freya’s abusive husband, Jonno, instantly becomes their prime suspect. (I’m not sure why. Because he’s beating up their friend, I suppose.) Conor also somehow makes the leap to believing Jonno was involved in a tragedy from his past. A tragedy that happened in Melbourne.
Yes, the coincidence here is a little hard to swallow. As is the idea of so many violent crimes occurring in a place like Cooktown.
Meanwhile, everyone’s blase attitude made me squint. In fact, most of the characters continue to go about their business despite all the carnage around them. Conor shows little emotion when finally coming face to face with his family’s murderer, and he and Kristy grab a cuppa before they go off to rescue Abby from a supposed rapist/murderer.
Another event that made me scoff was the fact the Cairns police arrive in Cooktown to investigate the murder and leave within a couple of days. I’m sure they might have stuck around a little longer. There is the obligatory annoying redneck local cop though…
The last quarter of the book has the mystery building at the same time as Cyclone Kate. I think this might have been when Young lost me completely. I didn’t think there was much tension at all. Jonno wasn’t very scary. I don’t think Conor and Kristy were particularly worried about him either, considering the amount of times they stopped mid-action to make another hot cuppa.
In fact, I was so disappointed with the last few chapters I ended up skimming, especially the part where Conor explains all to Kristy.
As I said, I live not far from Cooktown, and it’s a beautiful place. And one thing Young does do well is describe the area authentically. Crocodiles do lurk in the Endeavour River, and category five cyclones do cross there.
Overall, I feel terrible that I didn’t like this more. I’m sure lots of readers will and, for me, this just wasn’t the right book at the right time.
3 / 5