NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo

Book Quote:

“He, (Ned), told me he was disgusted with the way Ocean Catch was fishing,” Thomasina says. “He didn’t say why but I figured they must have been exceeding quotas or trawling illegally. You know, breaking some sort of sustainable fisheries things. But I was surprised, because he never cared about this stuff before. ‘Let the environmentalists worry about the environment,’ he used to say.”

Book Review:

Review by Jana L. Perskie  (MAY 11, 2014)

North of Boston is Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel, and to me it is a real winner. It certainly held my interest and I found that, at times, I was unable to put this books down.

Pirio Kasparov, heir to a very successful perfume business which her Russian immigrant parents founded, is our protagonist. sponsored: Royal Vegas Casino – when you make three initial deposits, you receive up to 1200 Canadian dollars for each coupled with 30 free spins. She is a gritty, smart and complex woman. When Pirio’s mother died, the girl was just 10 years old. Her deceased mother’s will stipulates that when Pirio turns 21 years old, she will inherit her mother’s share of the extremely successful business, Inessa Mark, Inc. and that if she wants full ownership, the company would revert to her upon her eccentric father’s death. Pirio has joined the company where she works as “CEO in training.” Scent permeates much of the novel – the scent of perfume, ambergris, herbs, flowers, etc. And the smells of the sea also play an important part in the author’s descriptive passages.

Pirio’s fisherman friend, Ned Rizzo, has recently acquired a lobster boat, the Molly Jones. He bought it for $1.00. Ned had been a star employee at the Ocean Catch Company in Boston, (where much of this tale is set), and then, out of nowhere, he quits. His parting gift, a sort of severance pay, is the brand new lobster boat, a far cry from the usual gold watch. But why would someone, or some corporation, just give away an expensive boat? And why did Ned, after working 20 years on corporate factory trawlers and long liners, switch to catching lobsters? Is it because his new boat is precisely for that purpose, or is the reason more complex?

Ned finds himself short of crew one foggy day and recruits the totally inexperienced Pirio to stand in for the usual experienced fishermen. Pirio, wanting to help a friend, expresses her doubts about working as a pure novice. Ned teaches her to bait traps before they leave the harbor. He also tells her that he will teach her the ropes as the day progressed,  essentially on-the-job training. When a freighter collides with the Molly Jones, the ship sinks quickly, taking Ned with it. The huge freighter moves off, never bothering to search for possible survivors – an oceanic hit-and-run!

Pirio jumps free of the submerging ship and is thrust into the icy cold waters off the Boston coast. She manages to survive for 4 hours in 42 – 48 degree Fahrenheit water, a heretofore feat rarely heard of. Pirio seems to possess a physiological quirk that makes her almost immune to hypothermia. So Pirio can now be entered into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!  Her miraculous survival causes the Navy Diving Experimental Unit to request that she stop by for testing. They fly her to Florida, their home base, for just that purpose. “We have no idea how that happened, a Navy doctor tells her. “We’ve never seen that in a human before. She becomes sort of a local heroine, called “The Swimmer.”

Pirio is, if nothing else, tenacious. Her instincts tell her that the collision was no accident. Ms. Kasparov simply wants answers: who rammed their boat and why? But the coast guard seems to consider it an unfortunate accident and not a high priority. When she starts asking questions on her own, it’s clear someone is very unhappy with her involvement. After exhausting her inquiries in Boston, she persists in her quest for the mysterious freighter and soon is hot on the trail of a wide-ranging mystery that ultimately takes her far north of Boston, to the whaling grounds of Canada’s Baffin Island.

Pirio meets a mysterious man at Ned’s memorial service who now seems as eager as she to find the truth surrounding the accident…if it was an accident. This man becomes an important figure in the narratve.

To complicate matters further, Pirio spends much of her time consumed with helping her old school friend Thomasina, an alcoholic and gadabout, with her young son, Noah. Noah also happens to be Ned’s son, and Pirio has a strong connection with him as his godmother.

North of Boston, Elisabeth Elo’s novel, is a winner. It is so much more than a mystery. The characters are well fleshed out, the mystery and ominous ambiance are thrilling at times, the storyline is a strong one, the Arctic setting is fascinating, and the supporting cast of characters is interesting.

I highly recommend North of Boston and look forward to reading the author’s future work.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 61 readers
PUBLISHER: Pamela Dorman Books; First Edition edition (January 23, 2014)
REVIEWER: Jana L. Perskie
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt


May 11, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Debut Novel, NE & New York, Thriller/Spy/Caper

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