Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: North of Boston

Summary:Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl with an acerbic wit and a moral compass that points due north.

When the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures.

With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself.

A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead. -- Pamela Dorman

I probably shouldn't admit this, but when I picked up NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo, I thought it was historical fiction. Looking back, I have no idea why -- I mean the cover certainly doesn't convey that! Whatever the reason, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this novel is a literary thriller; and I do love a good literary thriller.

NORTH OF BOSTON tells the story of Pirio Kasparo, a young woman from Boston who recently was the sole survivor of a fishing boat crash. What is even more amazing is that she managed to make it almost four hours in the freezing North Atlantic -- but that's another story! Her best friend's ex Ned, the owner of the boat, was lost and sea and presumed dead.

At first Pirio believes the crash was accidental; however, as she begins to reflect on the event she's not entirely sure. Pirio then starts her own investigation in the "accident" after her father convinces her that nothing is ever what it seems, and she teams up with Russell Parnell, an investigative journalist who has some ideas of his own about what happened. Pirio's investigation puts her into some very dangerous situations, but she's determined to find out why someone would want Ned dead.

I mentioned that I love quality literary thrillers and NORTH OF BOSTON certainly fit the bill. I loved this book from the well drawn characters, to the intriguing mystery, to the action-packed sequences. This novel really had it all and it will most-likely go down as one of my favorite books of 2014!

I find it hard to believe that NORTH OF BOSTON is Ms. Elo's debut novel because it is so polished. I truly was blown away by her writing style as well as her ability to create a memorable character in Pirio. This woman really knows to how tell a story and pull her readers in. I haven't been reading much lately, but I admit that I couldn't put down this novel.

Part of the reason I was so caught up in this book was how the story was told. The novel was narrated by Pirio and I absolutely loved her voice. I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts about why this first person narrative was different than other novels, and I think it's because Pirio's voice was so real and honest. However, it also had a rawness to it that just made it so intense.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the character of Pirio. She is a piece-of-work -- both courageous and smart, but at the same time almost stupid! (You'll see what I mean if you read this book!) While I loved how persistent and heroic she was as she tried to uncover what happened to Ned, I also liked that her character was so flawed. She had a lot of baggage from her upbringing (major daddy issues!) and she wasn't exactly good girlfriend material; however, I loved seeing how her past made her into the person she is now. In addition, I really liked seeing how much she evolved/matured throughout the course of the story.

Finally, another great aspect of this novel was the mystery behind the boating accident. I was seriously drawn into Pirio's quest to uncover the truth, and I loved all of the twists and turns that were presented throughout the almost 400 pages. Truth be told, I never thought I'd be all that interested in a subplot of the fishing industry; however, Ms. Elo managed to make even this topic fascinating to me.

NORTH OF BOSTON would make an excellent book club book. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but I don't think one is necessary for discussion. Pirio and the secondary characters are all fascinating and flawed, and I think their actions and motivations could be discussed for quite awhile. In addition, there are some interesting themes in this story including loss, grief, parent/child relationships, loyalty, honestly, second chances, forgiveness and redemption.

Overall, I loved NORTH OF BOSTON! I highly recommend it to fans of literary thrillers!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

First person narrative is my favorite and this one sounds like it's excellent!

Kim@Time2Read said...

LOL! I have to admit, I also though this was historical fiction. I guess anything with 'Boston' in the title should be historic, right?

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love a good, solid literary thriller. There certainly aren't enough of them, in my opinion. If only we could clone Tana French! I'll have to keep this one in mind.