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NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo: Book Review

North of Boston is an excellent title for Elisabeth Elo’s debut mystery novel.  But it could also be called Here, There, and Everywhere because the story ranges from Boston to Florida to Labrador.  It’s a terrific, fast ride that will leave the reader breathless.

Pirio Kasparav has just survived four hours in the freezing waters of Boston harbor after a collision between her friend’s lobster boat and a huge freighter/tanker.  Both she and the lobster boat’s owner, Ned Rizzo, are thrown into the water, but while Pirio survives, Ned’s body is never found, even after hours of searching by the Coast Guard.

Now Pirio has become a sort of instant mini-celebrity due to her survival in water with temperature no human “should” have been able to endure.  She doesn’t have any explanation for why her body didn’t shut down, but the Navy is interested and wants to fly her down to Florida for a series of physical and mental tests.  Pirio thinks she had enough tests as a defiant adolescent to last a lifetime, but a weekend in sunny Florida sounds too good to miss.

In the meantime, there is Ned’s funeral to deal with, along with the alcoholism of Pirio’s best friend Thomasina, the mother of Noah, the ten-year-old child resulting from the brief romance of Thomasina and Ned.  With a history of drugs and alcohol, Thomasina is certainly not the ideal mother, and Pirio is reluctantly forced to pick up the slack when her friend is put in jail overnight, leaving Noah on his own.

After an interview with a commander from the Coast Guard, Pirio believes that the authorities are too willing to call the collision an accident and investigate no further.   Angry and frustrated by the government’s lack of concern, Pirio decides to look into the matter herself.  “Because if a child’s parent has to be killed in a freak accident, that child deserves to see an aftermath of concern and accountability,” she thinks.  We empathize as Pirio is drawn into the investigation, tracking down how Ned became the owner of the lobster boat immediately after quitting his job at Ocean Catch, as she puts herself in danger while trying to find the answers to give to Noah.

Elisabeth Elo has surrounded Pirio with a group of fascinating characters.  Thomasina, whom Pirio has known since they were adolescents in boarding school together, is a mess–a woman with a genius  I.Q. who drinks, takes drugs, and is available for nearly any man who is close by; Noah, her gifted son, bereft by his father’s death and wondering how the collision between his father’s lobster boat and the never-found freighter/tanker could have happened; the mysterious “Larry Wozniack,” who crashes Ned’s funeral, pretending to have been a friend of the deceased; and Johnny O, a friend and co-worker with Ned at Ocean Catch and formerly Pirio’s lover.  

North of Boston is an exciting read, a novel that’s hard to put down.  In this, the author’s first novel, she has introduced a charismatic heroine to the Boston mystery scene.

You can read more about Elisabeth Elo at this web site

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.


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