In brief: After a messy breakup, Beth decides to become a locum doctor. First stop is the Pilbara mining town of Iron Junction, where things at the local mine are not what they seem…
The good: Great setting, loads of action and I enjoyed the medical aspect.
The not-so-good: One of the characters is truly horrible in his actions.
Setting: Australia (primarily the Pilbara region of Western Australia)
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Browsing on Net Galley one day, I was instantly captivated by the beauty of Iron Junction‘s cover – the magnificence of the landscape meant it had to be Western Australia’s Pilbara region, right? So I clicked on the image, hoping that it would be a W.A. based story…and I was correct! (Being my home state, I am firmly of the [biased] opinion that we need more books set here). I was worried at first that this would be in a similar vein to other novels set around the mining industry (the Pilbara is home to many mines, predominantly iron ore) but my concerns were in vain. Iron Junction combines the beautiful W.A. setting with medicine, drama and intrigue – just the kind of thing I love to read.
The book opens as Beth reluctantly attends a party. She doesn’t want to be there – she’s split with her dependable-but-boring fiancé and is not looking forward to telling her family. She’s quit her job as a resident medical officer at a Sydney hospital to try Australia wide locums. Essentially, her life is in a state of flux created by herself to find some meaning. Beth’s first locum position takes her to Iron Junction, a mine town in the Pilbara. She’s there to look after the medical needs of the workers and the town’s residents. Plus, Beth’s a keen photographer, so she can capture some of the rugged beauty of the Pilbara on real film (none of this digital business for her). As she settles into life in Iron Junction, Beth starts to notice several injuries at the mine and a reluctance of the workers to stop working. The mine manager is unsettling. But Beth pushes this aside as she becomes friends with Caitlin, a fellow photographer with life threatening bronchiectasis and Will, a new mine worker. Things start to become heated in Iron Junction and action and drama abound in a race against time…
I enjoyed this book, not only because of the familiar setting, but because of the multi-layered plot. The romance doesn’t take centre stage, but complements the other parts of Beth’s life. The medical focus was interesting with the rotation of patients and affliction that Beth treats and I liked the inclusion of Caitlin and her respiratory problems as an ongoing plot thread. (There were a few liberties taken with Caitlin’s medical condition compared to what happens in real life, but they make for a much more entertaining and intense story, so I don’t mind!) Nash also captures the beauty of the Pilbara region in some detail, from Millstream and Karijini national parks to the coast during the wet (monsoonal) season. This book made me feel proud of the region and all it has to offer (even if some of it is a bit scary). The action is also fast, but not blindingly so.
I found Beth to be an easy character to relate to. She lacks confidence (she takes her medical textbooks away for Christmas to study!) and it’s pleasing to see her belief in herself growing as she becomes independent, away from her family. This is particularly evident during the dramatic finale, where Beth really comes into her own, orchestrating a life-saving operation. The fact that she’s not as confident in her love life with Will, taking one step forward and two steps back was sweet but not annoying. This is partially because Will is such a patient character with a heart of gold. (Those who have read Nash’s previous book, Ryders Ridge, will be interested to know that Will is the brother of Mark and there are some references to him and Daniella). He’s a sweet young man who shares a strong belief in ethical behaviour with Beth, which is one of the reasons why they make such a great team.
Iron Junction is a lovely novel, capturing the essence of the Pilbara and those working there under varied conditions. Well worth a read!