reviewed by Eric Ellis
Dry Heat opens in late November 1999 and finds seventeen-year-old Joey Blades, a Phoenix, Arizona high school student, shooting baskets with his best friend, fifteen-year-old Mallory Stewart. Blades is a six-foot, two-inch, 200 pound running back with a promising future where his most pressing issue is to decide upon which university to attend on a full-ride football scholarship.
Returning to Mallory’s home, with her creepy father away, in a tender moment, Joey loses his virginity to Mallory.
The story then moves forward six weeks to the eve of the New Millenium, which also happens to be Joey’s eighteenth birthday. Joey and others, including his new girlfriend Wendy, are preparing to enjoy a high school bonfire to ring in the new year.
Just before the lighting of the bonfire, in a moment of privacy, Mallory appears and tells Joey she is pregnant with his baby. After Mallory leaves, the lighting of the bonfire goes horribly awry, sending Joey down a road of difficult decisions where every answer seems to turn out wrong with horrible repercussions, including a possible lengthy prison term for Joey.
Even though innocent of potential criminal charges, those able to exonerate Joey refuse to do so and Joey must then attempt to help himself, which includes seeking help from Chico Torres, a murderous and notorious gang leader, who is somehow aligned with Joey’s father, Dutch.
Dry Heat is broken up into three parts and moves from 1999 to 2017 and deals with Joey’s rise, fall and redemption. It is also about families, loyal friends and betrayals and a novel where the most evil of villains can be those that walk among us as normal people.
Dry Heat has been one of the best books I have read this year and it is always pleasurable in finding books that are gems when not expected and Dry Heat is one of those books. One other thing Joy does well, and it is not a spoiler to reveal this, is how reader despair and sympathy toward the Joey Blade character builds because the reader knows he is innocent of any criminal charges from the start.
Dry Heat is highly recommended to all readers, with Len Joy telling a mature story without resorting to needless depictions of sexuality or violence.
An advanced reader’s copy was provided by Netgalley in return for a fair review.