Northern Lights, a review by Joanna

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Northern Lights

Nora Roberts

Published 2004

Piatkus Books

637 pages

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This is a mystery thriller set and first published in 2004, about a fish out of water detective who moves from Baltimore to a small town in Alaska. Nora Roberts normally writes romantic suspense, so I was hesitant to take this,  but my Book Club friends assured me that the romance here was not the main point of the story here, and as it turns out, they were right, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Ignatious “Nate” Burke is still struggling with the loss of his best friend and colleague when he arrives in Lunacy, Alaska, in the middle of winter to be their new Chief of Police. Determined to make a go of it despite the scepticism of some of the locals, he is just beginning to find his (very cold) feet when a long-dead body is found in an mountain cave with a ice axe embedded in its chest. Who is the mystery victim and can Nate keep the town safe when someone is determined to keep the truth hidden?
The descriptions of stunning Alaskan scenery and the antics of the various oddball characters featured had me wishing I could pack up and move there, even though I know I wouldn’t cope with the cold and the huntin’-shootin’-fishin’ culture. I really liked both main characters, the steady conscientious cop and his brave feisty love interest Meg. This avoids the usual romance tropes, and while their happy ending isn’t in much doubt, I was engrossed enough by the mystery not to be bothered by the various love scenes, which are not too graphic or too drawn out. More importantly, Roberts had me convinced I knew who the baddie was all the way through, but I was completely wrong! Despite being nearly twenty years old, this didn’t feel dated either.
A warning for animal lovers – this does feature the murder of a minor character’s pet dog, although it is not described, and the killing of a bear, admittedly in self-defence, which is. These are not gratuitous though, and I wouldn’t let this put you off what was an excellent crime thriller by an accomplished storyteller. 4.5 rounded up for keeping me guessing until the end.

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