Friday, December 18, 2020

Book Review: The Heatwave

By Jami Denison

Missing and dead children are a staple of domestic thrillers, along with the heartsick parents that search for them. In Kate Riordan’s new suspense novel The Heatwave, however, Sylvie Durand’s life has been better ever since she lost her 14-year-old daughter Eloide nine years ago. But now she’s drawn back to the home in southern France where her psychotic daughter terrorized her and tore her marriage apart. The family home was abandoned after Sylvie split with her husband Greg and took her younger daughter Emma back to London; a small fire has forced Sylvie to return to fix up the place for a possible sale. But with memories of Eloide at every turn—and Emma still fascinated by the older sister she can barely remember—Sylvie may be forced to tell Emma the ugly truth about Eloide long before she had planned.

The Heatwave is a hypnotic, languid mystery with language that keeps readers hooked even when describing the smallest plot points. Drenched in the heat of a 1990s summer, coupled with mysterious wildfires, the book is a perfect (socially distanced) beach read for those who like to revel in the heat rather than escape it.

The book is told linearly in two alternating timelines – the 1970s, where Sylvie and Greg are married and Eloide’s behavior increasingly troubles her mother while her father remains in denial – and the present-day 1990s. Written in first person from Sylvie’s point of view, the narration also employs second person, as Sylvie addresses Emma directly in the book. The mystery of how Eloide died and what secrets Sylvie is hiding from Emma loom on every page, as the tension twists and builds. While Riordan does an excellent job foreshadowing Eloide’s most heinous act, she still pulls off a major surprise halfway through the book. 

I was completely mesmerized by this book, and I loved the big plot twist. But with all the tension and heat implying an explosive ending, I felt let down by the climax and the questions left unanswered by the end of the book. The final confrontation was not the huge eruption I’d anticipated, but a smaller event left open to interpretation. There were also plot holes left unfilled and gaps in the timeline that defied logic.

The epilogue, however, was outstanding, and gives hope that Riordan might pen a sequel. Her question of whether nature or nurture is responsible for a “bad seed” is something that can be explored for generations of this troubled family.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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