North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

If you’re looking for a good thriller by a new author check out North of Boston. It was the last book I read in 2014 and it’s always a pleasure when the first and last book of the year are good ones.
North of Boston was on Booklist’s 2014 Year’s Best Crime Novels: 2014. They described it as, “Dennis Lehane meets Smilla’s Sense of Snow: a big discovery in the world of female suspense, about an edgy young woman with the rare ability to withstand extreme conditions.”

From the publisher: 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.

Smart tough women and ships are two of my favorite things. This book has both, as well as a good plot and some interesting supporting characters. Perfume is also involved.

One tantalizing aspect of this story is that Pirio’s surviving hours in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic draws the attention of the U.S. Navy Experimental Dive Team. They want to study Pirio’s physiology and so she goes down to Florida for some tests. I have hopes that in a subsequent story Pirio gets involved with the Navy as a secret agent. It would be refreshing to see some military fiction where a woman kicks ass and isn’t in the story as a love interest/liability for the male action hero.

If foreign rights are any indication of an author’s rising star, I noticed on Elo’s website that there editions of North of Boston in Germany, Spain, France, Israel, Serbia, and the UK. 
The interesting characters and solid plot based in, what seemed to me, a realistic representation of the shipping world made this a solid read for me. I’ll keep an eye out for Elo’s next book. 

P.S. Boston is not covered in snow in this novel.

Goodreads link: North of Boston
Author website: Elisabeth Elo
Penguin, Hardcover 1/1/14, Paperback 12/30/14
Source: review copy from publisher

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