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Dead Heat    by Caroline Carver order for
Dead Heat
by Caroline Carver
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If you crossed Frantic and Crocodile Dundee, you might end up with something like Dead Heat. It has a kidnapped hostage like the former, and non-stop action and monster crocs (including one called 'Nail-tooth' whose 'head was broad as a fridge') like the latter. It's all set in tropical northern Queensland, the Aussie version of the wild west (I love the local color as in a bar sign that says 'Free bungee jumps for politicians - no strings attached').

It begins when Georgia Parrish runs down a rare cassowary after attending her grandfather's funeral in Nulgarra in the far north of Queensland (the nearest big city is in Papua, New Guinea), and it goes from bad to catastrophic worse. After driving through the torrent that used to be a small creek, Georgia picks up a couple whose car didn't make it through. All three are passengers in a small plane that crashes. The pilot (an old friend of Georgia's) is badly burned, lovely young Chinese Suzie Wilson dies in her arms, and she only survives herself because enigmatic Lee Denham, 'the least friendly man on the planet', pulls her from the wreckage.

Our heroine is kidnapped and her hippie mother held hostage for information that a vicious Chinese gang believes Suzie gave to Georgia before she died. The fact that they have a police informant prevents her from seeking help, and she has only days to figure everything out before her mother will be mutilated and murdered. Complicating matters is handsome Sergeant Daniel Carter, an old school-mate of Georgia's now working on a 'People-Smuggling Strike Team'. And, though everyone warns Georgia that Lee Denham is one of the bad guys, he's her only hope of getting her mother back in one piece.

As in the author's previous Blood Junction, the book drips blood and gore from its pages as its heroine lurches from one somewhat improbable crisis to another. She's attacked in the air, by land and sea, as everyone races to retrieve Suzie's croc-related research. Georgia's stubborn persistence soon becomes perilous indeed, in a thriller as exotic and unpretentious as its Aussie context.

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