In the hot, dusty, isolated NSW township of Goodabri, Jo Lockwood is a National Parks ranger, and is clearing up a site of vandalism in the National Park when she stumbles across a dingo, holding what appears to be a human hand in its mouth. This is the scene for the opening chapter of Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry, her latest crime thriller set in the harsh NSW outback. For Jo, it is most definitely not all in a day’s work, though she tries to appear cool and collected when Detective Nick Matheson appears on the scene. Nick is a city import, posted to rural NSW in an attempt to recover from his history as an undercover cop working the drugs beat.
For Nick and Jo, it’s professional respect at first sight – or is it something more? As more bodies start piling up, though, the two of them must attempt to put aside their growing personal feelings for one another and bring their scientific and police procedural minds to the fore as they grapple with what seems to be a string of unrelated killings. Unrelated, that is, until they come to the shocking realisation that there is a link, and what’s more, Jo’s name may be the next on the list.
Nick and Jo’s opponent is ruthless and swift, murdering not only people who may have seen him, but also his own henchmen as soon as a sign of weakness is shown. He’s also not above enlisting the natural environment to aid him and turns the bush itself against Jo in an attempt to put her off his tail. But as they say, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts, and soon Nick and Jo realise that together, they make a team that can outwit and overcome this most cruel of criminals.
As a crime thriller, this is a most satisfying story, but what makes this stand out is its true-to-life telling of the reality of living in a rural Australian town. The bush can be harsh, but beautiful, and the people might seem parochial but in the end the community will always band together to protect one of its own.
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