Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
In northern Queensland, Conor is living under an assumed name, working low skilled jobs and trying to find his place in the world again. Working coaching kids at the local youth centre gives him a way to get to know some of the local community and also make a difference in the lives of some young kids.
One of his players has been talking up her mother non-stop and Conor has to admit, Dr Kristy Dark does interest him. But as she is the widowed mother of a teenager, Conor doesn’t want to offer her false hope, not while he’s still living a life in hiding. Kristy deserves better and so does her daughter Abby.
For Kristy, this posting was her chance to start again with Abby after they suffered a devastating loss and then another tragedy. She has made a home for herself in this community, she has made friends. She’s helping someone she knows, someone in a dangerous situation. Abby’s sports coach Conor does complicate things but perhaps not in such a bad way.
When Conor is first on the scene of a local murder, neither he nor Kirsty could even begin to imagine what they would discover about their town. As a dangerous cyclone bears down on Cooktown, Conor, Kristy and Abby find themselves not only at the mercy of the elements but someone who will stop at nothing to continue to get what they want. Conor could lose everything he holds dear again by the time the storm is over, unless Kirsty can trust him and they can work together in a way that just might show them both a brighter future.
If you read Helene Young’s novel previous to this, Safe Harbour then you’ll be familiar with Conor and his tragic backstory. I was very pleased when I realised Young’s next novel would revolve around Conor, moving him from supporting character to front and centre and giving him a chance to find some happiness for himself after all he has gone through. I have to say, I think this story does him perfect justice.
It’s set in Cooktown in far (far) north Queensland, quite a long way away from the furthest north I’ve ever been and definitely a new setting for me. It’s wonderful to find books that take the reader away from the capital cities or the vague “outback” and into new places and as she has done previously, Young uses the setting and the impending cyclone to flesh out her characters and also build tension.
Conor is laying low, still using a false name and still living mostly off the grid, on a boat. For Conor, there are still some dangers out there that prevent him from taking back his life. Dr Kirsty Dark is rebuilding hers and has been ever since she accepted the job in Cooktown. As the mother of a daughter straddling that difficult place between child and grown up, Kirsty faces problems getting Abby to include her in her life and there are several concerns she has, especially with the influences she fears Abby may be exposed to by her friendship with a local girl. Kirsty has made friends with the girl’s mother Freya and knows the ugly secrets behind Freya’s perfect facade as wife to one of the area’s wealthiest men.
Conor and Kirsty are two people who have loved and lost and who I think are both quite lonely for adult companionship, even if they don’t know it. Kirsty has a wonderfully giving and patient nature and her dedication towards helping Freya is only one example of how she goes above and beyond but is also discreet. I think that given the amount of woman who have been murdered by their former or current partners in this year alone in Australia, domestic violence is an issue we are going to see more of in fiction and although it’s mostly only touched on here, it’s still something that permeates the story and gives the reader the ability to place themselves in Freya’s shoes and experience the horror that she is living and what her children are exposed to. In her guest post for me, Helene mentioned that she will definitely write Freya’s story one day which makes me very happy. I think she’s a brave and wonderful character, strong and deserving of a better future and someone who will treat her and her children the way they should be treated.
Earlier I mentioned the way in which the weather is used in this story. The cyclone is a living, breathing character that is used to build the tension and suspense as it bears down on the town and Conor and Kirsty find themselves at its mercy. When the storm hits, the story has hit a peak and then the quiet eye slows the pace, allowing the characters (and the reader) to catch their breath before the second onslaught. It’s a really effective way to pace the story and control the way in which the suspense builds and although I live too far south to have ever really had much experience with cyclones, they’re such a part of Australian life during the season that it’s so easy to imagine what it would be like, even though my imagination probably still doesn’t come close to the fury and danger of being out in one.
I really enjoyed this story and the way that all of the facets were woven together so well. Conor and Kirsty complement each other and I feel as though the characters of the teenage girls were spot on too, which can be difficult to achieve. The thread of suspense running through the plot was interesting and kept the me really invested in hoping that some characters really received what they truly deserved! Helene Young is so incredibly consistent and each time I pick up one of her books I really know I’m going to enjoy the ride.
Book #83 of 2015
Northern Heat is the 33rd book for my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015
Don’t forget to check out Helene Young’s guest post for my blog and make sure you visit the rest of blogs on the tour as well!