Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard, book two in the Detective Moralès series, set on the Gaspé Peninsula. I loved the lyrical quality of her first book, We Were The Salt of the Sea, and have been really looking forward to tucking into this latest offering. Translator, David Warriner, assured me it was something pretty special and he wasn’t wrong. My thanks to Anne Cater or Random Things Tours for including me in the tour and to publisher Orenda Books for providing an advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.
Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.
For a story that is, essentially, a tale of a missing person and murder, there is somewhat of a serene quality to The Coral Bride. From the very opening chapter in which the scene is very clearly set for readers, through to the tense and emotional finale, Roxanne Bouchard once again immerses us in the beautifully evocative world of Detective Moralès and the people of the Gaspé Peninsula.
Moralès is called to Pérce to investigate the disappearance of a young Fisherwoman, Angel Roberts. Her boat is found adrift at sea but there is no sign of her and it is up to Moralès, his unconventional police colleague, Lefebvre, and fisheries officer, Simone Lord, to determine if her disappearance is of her own accord, or down to fowl play. The more we, and Moralès learn of Angel’s past, of the complex relationships that surround her, the more suspicion falls upon her family and her friends as being responsible. And believe me, when her body is finally discovered, although everything points to suicide, Moralès is far from convinced, and there are many suspects, many people seemingly with reason to wish harm upon her, least of all because the seas are still deemed no place for a woman.
I love the lyrical quality of Roxanne Bouchard’s writing and, although the story perhaps lacks some of the mystical legends of the sea than infused the first book, you are still left charmed by the wonder of the peninsula, the breathtaking quality of the landscape and the sense of peace that comes from being at one with the water, of finally understanding the spirit of the sea, that washes over the characters in turn. For Moralès, this understanding came in the last book, this time around it is his son, Sébastien, who needs to find the peace within himself. You can really feel the author’s passion for the sea come through in the story, the tales of the Fisherman that feed the narrative all steeped in authenticity and true feeling.
Family is a strong theme throughout this novel, with focus falling not only on Angel and her extended family, but also on Moralès, who struggles to find a way to communicate with Sébastien, a trait that the two men share. As they try to learn more about each other, they discover more about themselves too in a way which is portrayed with sensitivity but also manages to inform the story. A warning though, a lot of their bonding takes place whilst over a shared love of food and cooking, so do not go into this read hungry – you’ll be practically salivating over your book by the end of it. When it comes to Angel’s family, the author explores the rivalries that exist between the fishing families, driven by the many changes in the fishing industry and generations of divisions. We are taken on a journey through the peninsula’s past, as full of ups and downs as the ocean wave.
Although this is a fairly long book, it never once felt that way. The writing simply flows and carries you along with it. The many characters that inhabit the story intrigued me, the way in which the author casts suspicion upon each in turn simple and yet effective, and it is almost impossible to know who to believe in, how much they hide their true emotions and feelings behind a sombre facade. You seldom see the outright expression of grief or anger from Angel’s father or brothers, and yet, when it comes, is touches the heart. The emotion of her husband is palpable, the display of grief captured perfectly. I actually loved the way in which Roxanne Bouchard still captures the little quirks and ticks of her characters, this time around in the shape of Lefebvre, who has a magpie like habit of collecting random objects, and Robichaud, whose fascination with Sébastien, and gossip, traverses the peninsula.
There are moments of poignancy throughout, quieter moments when you are able to stop and think, and moments when you can feel the tension build, echoed in the changes of the tidal waters so beautifully described within the novel. Even the opening scene, although tragic, is also tranquil, with a sense of resignation and acceptance of what will come to pass. Moralès friendship with Cyrille Bernard is understated and yet powerful, the conclusion of their story one of the simplest and yet most emotive moments of all. And I have to comment the translation by David Warriner, pitch perfect and which captures the essence of the sea, the spirit of the novel, so beautifully.
Emotive and tragically beautiful in its execution, this is another wonderful story that will stay with me for some time to come.
About the Author
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. We Were the Salt of the Sea is her fifth novel, and her first to be translated into English. She lives in Quebec.
Follow the tour:
Books by Roxanne Bouchard