NORTHERN LIGHTS
Nora Roberts

 


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Putnam, October 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Baltimore cop Ignatious "Nate" Burke accepts the position of chief of police in the remote village of Lunacy, Alaska. His decision to relocate was prompted by an armed robbery and shooting incident that injured him and resulted in the death of his partner. Nate is divorced and still suffering the effects of a black hole depression. He hopes to continue his recovery by relocating to this backwoods police department. But Sheriff Burke is in for a few surprises when Lunacy, Alaska begins living up to its name.

Burke finds bush pilot Meg Galloway interesting from their first meeting. He is surprised to feel anything at all, since his emotions have been frozen in a fog of depression for months. Meg is an independent, no-strings-attached kind of woman who falls for the sad look in Sheriff Burke's eyes. Some folks say she's crazy, and when Meg propositions him soon after their first meeting he gets his first taste of why the citizens of this town are called Lunatics. But someone has taken the name to an extreme level; a murderer is on the loose.

A frozen body with an ice pick in his heart is found by some mountain climbers in a long forgotten ice cave. When the body is identified as Pat Galloway, the father Meg thought walked away from her when she was a little girl, she asks Burke to find the person who killed her father. The state police have jurisdiction over the investigation, but when clues lead to the killer being someone from the town of Lunacy, Burke promises to search for the killer's identity.

NORTHERN LIGHTS, a romantic suspense novel, is Nate Burke's story, written largely from his point of view. It explores his comeback from a long, deep depression and his choice between rebuilding a life for himself or just hiding out in this remote village. Lunacy, Alaska is a challenge for Nate. It's populated with a large cast of eccentric characters whose bizarre behavior makes for a lively and entertaining read. This town has many similarities and all of the appeal of the television series Northern Exposure. Alaska was a great setting for this book. The local color of this village is as fascinating as the plot.

The mystery element of this tale is well-written. I changed my mind several times throughout the story trying to decide who the killer might be. The discovery of the murderer is dramatic and the ending scenes are action packed. The romantic element is a little more disappointing. I struggled with the fit of these two characters. Meg Galloway is a straightforward, outspoken character who is very casual about her sexual relationships. She keeps an emotional distance from her lovers that effected the romantic quotient of the story for me.

November 2004

 

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