NORTH OF BOSTON by Elizabeth Elo

North Of Boston published by Viking

North Of Boston
published by Viking

Elisabeth Elo


Pirio Kasparov was doing a favor for a friend by working on his lobster boat when a large craft comes out of the fog, cuts their small vessel in half and sends it to the bottom of the ocean.  Her friend’s body is never recovered, but Pirio miraculously stays alive in the frigid water for four hours before being rescued.  Pirio makes the rounds to the local agencies asking for answers about how and why this could have happened—and by whom.  Frustrated by the authorities’ lack of interest and unable to let it go, Pirio starts to look into the accident on her own.  She begins asking questions among her friends that work in Boston’s fishing industry, and snooping around the harbors.  What she ultimately finds, however, is a large and dangerous conspiracy involving illegal whale hunting that reaches far into international waters.  And unfortunately, the ones involved have also found her.

This is Elo’s debut novel, and it can be described as nothing less than gripping.  Pirio Kasparov is a strong, sarcastic and determined protagonist, with an outer shell as tough as a lobster.  She was raised to fight—with her father, with her previous love interests, and now with those covering up the death of her friend.  Her relationships with her loved ones are both intense and heartbreaking—the tense relationship with her father, as well as the on-going struggle with her alcoholic childhood friend who has a 10 year-old son that she often leaves with Pirio.  These relationships form the backbone of who Pirio is as a character and how she functions in the world—the bond between Pirio and her friend’s son is especially emotional, since he is a smart and sensitive child desperate for a stable home life, something that his mother is frequently unable to give him.  Elo also captures the gritty atmosphere of the Boston waterfront and the fishing industry—men and women who make their livings on the sea, trying to support families working in an industry that is hurting.  All in all, this is a wonderful debut, strong and character-driven, and well worth diving into.

Erica Ruth Neubauer