Reviewed on 31st March 2017

Heat by Sally Emerson

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller
Heat by Sally Emerson Synopsis

Passionate, tense and menacing, Sally Emerson’s classic tale of obsession in a claustrophobic city is an emotional thriller from start to finish. Newly re-issued as part of a series of six titles. Susan Stewart thought her relationship with journalist Phillip Jordan was long over. But when Susan glimpses him again in a bookshop on the outskirts of Washington DC, the memories return. Is Phillip deliberately haunting her? Or are her own disturbed emotions turning a long, hot, oppressive Washington summer into a nightmare that threatens to unravel her whole life? This is a gripping story of obsession and love – and the difference between the two – by a formidable novelist.

Heat by Sally Emerson Review

A Dark, Compelling Love Story with a Deadly, Thrilling Twist  

Do you have a secret? One so deep and dark you’ve subconsciously spent a lifetime trying to keep the memory suppressed in the back of your brain? I know I have!

The novel Heat, by Sally Emerson was first published in 1998. It is the second of Emerson’s books to be re-published by Quartet Books as part of a Re-discovered Classic Series. It is an emotional thriller that surprises the reader at every turn of the page. It promises a tangled web of secrets, lies and deception, as the heroine finally deals with the fall-out from a dark and chilling relationship from her past.

Having recently read and reviewed Fire Child also written by Emerson, I had some preconceived ideas as to what I should expect from Heat. I couldn’t wait to carve out some well deserved ‘me’ time and start reading…

I fully expected this novel to deliver elements such as a dark and thrilling love story, alongside a completely unimaginable story line. I was not to be disappointed; Emerson delivered this and so much more.

As I sat down to read Heat, I found myself transported to another world right from the very first page. I was immersed in the world she was creating for me; I was spellbound.

Unfortunately for my family, I was so wrapped up in Emerson’s words I shirked my everyday responsibilities. Cooking dinner and putting children to bed seemed less important than reading ‘just one more page’.

The first page of the book sets the scene for this thrilling story and quickly introduces us to the heroine, Susan Stewart. I felt an instant connection with Susan and as the book continued, I lived every moment of her life as if I was her. I became Susan. It is truly the mark of an extraordinary writer when you leave your own life behind to live that of someone written on the pages of the book in front of you.

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On the surface, Susan appears to have a great life, living what is often referred to as the ‘typical American dream’. She has a beautiful home, an adoring husband (Jim), a wonderful daughter (Rebecca), and a job she loves.

Despite this almost perfect life, things begin to change and Susan’s world quickly begins to unravel.

Images of an old lover, Phillip, begin appearing everywhere she looks. It’s obvious to the reader that he holds the key to unlock a dark and chilling past. One which Susan had kept buried. But the truth will always out although it seems Susan is determined to make sure this does not happen.

Susan’s paranoia heightens, is Phillip stalking her? Or is he simply a figment of her imagination?

Strange things start happening inside the house as objects either disappear or seem to be moved to different places within the home. Susan becomes neurotic about the security of their house. Have the doors and windows been locked, she constantly asks? People start to wonder if Susan is going mad.

Have you ever lost something, or been sure that you left something in a certain spot only to have this item completely disappear or turn up somewhere else? Does this mean you have gone mad? In our family, we deal with losing or misplacing things almost every day. Maybe that is why I was so drawn into the story. So many parts of it were true to life; I could feel myself living her situations. Think about it, how many times have you thought you were going insane when the car keys were not in fact where you were sure you left them?

Susan’s relationships with both Jim and Rebecca simultaneously become strained and she starts to find herself spending more and more time alone. This, on top of the paranoia, exacerbates Susan’s downward spiral.

Susan’s husband starts flirting with danger when he becomes entrenched in the dark and scary side of politics. It is a distraction that soon wreaks havoc on the entire family and has deadly consequences.

Their daughter, Rebecca, seems like a lost child watching her parents’ spiral in different worlds. She seeks solace and companionship from the Polish woman living next door. Over time, they grow close and they begin making plans to visit Poland. Something about this trip just didn’t sit right with me and I found myself questioning Ivana’s motivations.

In the meantime, Susan wants to keep Phillip and the memories of him buried in her past but he has other plans. He starts turning up at the same events that Susan and Jim are attending, pushing the boundaries each and every time. When Jim takes a liking to Phillip and the men develop a friendship, Susan’s paranoia heightens further.

As the tension in the book rises, we can feel the fear Susan has for Phillip, which only increases the intrigue.

As pieces of the missing puzzle slowly seem to start falling into place, we come to understand that Susan and Phillip were in a relationship many years ago. The relationship, at a point, became dangerous and then one harrowing evening it escalated to a catastrophic level. The end result was that Susan left Phillip and vowed never to return.

I will not give away any spoilers here, but believe me I am biting my tongue as I write this. Emerson has created a story line so detailed and complex it leaves the reader guessing right up until the final words.

Sitting back reflecting on the book, even though I really identified with Susan, I believe the supporting characters were pivotal in ensuring the success of the novel. Through them, we are exposed to obsessive partners, infidelity, infertility, isolation, an oppressive environment, along with a crazy, mixed up political community. What more could you possible want from a novel?

I loved every minute of Emerson’s vividly descriptive writing along with the tangled web of deception she created through the different relationships.

I am conflicted as I finish this review, because I am keen to write a fantastic review that does justice to such an amazingly hypnotic book. But every time I try to put the words onto paper I found myself revealing far too much information. I guess you’ll just have to grab a copy and read the book for yourself to find out why.

This book was reviewed by: Casey Ravindran for The Glass House Book Club.

Published by: Quartet Books
ISBN: 978-070437-427-0

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