Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 August 2022 from Orenda Books
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review
There’s only one thing more deadly than the storm…
Fisheries officer Simone Lord is transferred to Quebec’s remote Magdalen Islands for the winter, and at the last minute ordered to go aboard a trawler braving a winter storm for the traditional grey seal hunt, while all of the other boats shelter onshore.
Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès is on a cross-country boat trip down the St Lawrence River, accompanied by Nadine Lauzon, a forensic psychologist working on the case of a savagely beaten teenager with Moralès’ old team in Montreal.
When it becomes clear that Simone is in grave danger aboard the trawler, the two cases converge, with startling, terrifying consequences for everyone involved…
The award-winning author of The Coral Bride returns with an atmospheric, race-against-the-clock thriller set on the icy seas in the midst of a brutal seal hunt, where nothing is as it seems and absolutely no one can be trusted.
Ohmy goodnessRoxanne Bouchard can write in a way that wholly encompasses the reader in her story. From the exquisite setting of the Gaspé Peninsula , Quebec to the remote Magdalen Islands there is a sense of deep foreboding and dark jeopardy.
DS Joaquin Moralès is having a break though that inevitably means he’s dabbling his toes in work, too. His mind is on his divorce but his thoughts also stray to his recent time with Fisheries Officer Simone Lord, to whom he has a strong attraction.
Much of this story focuses on Simone Lord, a strong woman doing a very difficult job in the most stretching of conditions. She has been sent by her bosses on a seal hunting trip aboard the Jean-Mathieu. The skipper is Bernard Chevrier, an old hand at the seal hunt and it’s a an all-consuming job that his family has practised for generations.
His crew are rough and know only too well the dangers of hunting seals in icy conditions. They are in no mood to have a Fisheries Inspector on board, far less a woman. From the moment Simone steps onto the boat there is that sense of danger and impending doom that lingers in the air, making the reader catch their breath and hold it; waiting for the moment it is safe to breathe. It is a moment that never really comes.
Bouchard transports you to that ship with its icy grip; the harsh cold infecting everything, the icy danger always present and the culling of the seals a big and strenuous job that, while it has to be done, brings no pleasure to anyone, though the haul will provide for the skipper and his crew through the winter months.
Bouchard presents an honest and stark portrayal of this industry from the perspective of someone who understands how it works, why seal culling is necessary and how it is regulated.
But that’s not the only thing that is going on with the Jean-Mathieu and that’s why this journey is more than usually dangerous. There are men on this boat who are ready to do harm to Simone Lord and worse if they have to. Though she is no-one’s pushover, Simone Lord finds herself in a position no woman should ever be faced with.
Meanwhile, Constable Érik Lefebvre is using his methodical stacking process to puzzle his way through the case that forensic psychologist Nadine Lauzon is working on. When it becomes clear that there is a connection between the savagely beaten teenager and some of the men on the Jean-Mathieu, Moralès cannot stop himself from jumping in and making sure that anyone and everyone listens to him about the precarious position this puts Simone in.
Verdict: The story telling is immaculate. The writing intense, harsh and beautiful in a translation by David Warriner that once again is evocative, clear and intensely atmospheric. Bouchard captures the ebb and flow of the sea in a book that thrums with rhythm, tears at the heart and makes you marvel at the bravery of those who battle for their living in icy waters. Her best Detective Morales yet.
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Ten years or so ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel, the evocative, atmospheric, beautiful, We Were the Salt of the Sea – her first to be translated into English – achieved exceptional critical acclaim. Its sequel, The Coral Bride, the second in the Detective Moralès series, was on the bestseller list in her native Quebec, before being published in English and around the world. Roxanne lives in Quebec with her partner.