Book Review: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

“The place feels like an old lover I shouldn’t trust, trying to win me over again.”

The 2020 book by Kate Riordan, The Heatwave follows Sylvie Durand who receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget. As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie can’t escape the spectre of Elodie, her first child, and struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago.


A tense and atmospheric domestic thriller, The Heatwave is a gripping and intriguing mystery thriller that completely captures its claustrophobic ambience of family secrets and buried memories, all in the unrelenting heat of the beautiful South of France.

I went into this having not read the synopsis (I was purely lured in by the gorgeous cover!) so I really enjoyed the slow-burning plot and the mystery of what happened in Sylvie’s past. Told through two narratives, one in the present and one in the past, you can really feel the chill of the ghosts haunting La Reverie, building the suspense in the present while slowly unravelling Sylvie’s aching memories in the past.

Sometimes you really get stuck into a book and The Heatwave really did that for me, which I wasn’t expecting at all. It leaves you feeling anxious but also compelled by Sylvie’s experiences, who I thought was a really engaging character.

The ending is a little rushed which is the only thing that stopped me from loving this even more, but I really enjoyed the fluidity of the writing and the strong sense of the French setting.

Although I wanted a stronger ending, I still come away from this book having had a satisfying and memorable experience.

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