The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard

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The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Perfect for those who love the sea, and tales about sea-faring folk, with a gripping mystery wrapping it all together.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: November 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1913193324

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Angel Roberts is an oddity - a female fisherwoman, making her living in a man's world. When her lobster trawler is found drifting off the coast of Quebec, Detective Morales is called in to come and head the investigation. Although the signs seem to point to an obvious conclusion, Morales feels something more sinister is going on, and finds himself frustrated at every turn by hidden agendas, fishing histories and secret family feuds. At the same time as trying to run his investigation, he also has his grown up son, Sebastien arriving at his door, weighed down with personal problems that he is unable to talk to his father about, which tie up with Morales own marital difficulties.

Although this is the second book about Detective Morales, you don't need to have read the first to enjoy it. I came into the story without any prior knowledge, and soon found myself caught up in Morales' life and able to follow what was going on. Morales is an interesting character, living and working in Canada although he was originally from Mexico. He married a Canadian woman when he was very young, having got her pregnant, and moved up to Canada to start his family. We get to meet his grown up son in this story, Sebastien, who is struggling with a difficult relationship with his partner. Sebastien feels that some of his relationship difficulties are as a result of Morales' relationship with Sebastien's mother, and the example he has been set, so there are some interesting thoughts about how relationships appear, and what's actually going on beneath the surface.

There are a variety of characters through the book, and I really enjoyed the feel you get for the fishermen (and women) of the villages along the coast, as well as how intertwined all their families and lives are, with feuds and upsets going back many generations. Although this isn't a humorous story, there are moments of humour throughout, partly through Morales' bookish assistant at the local police station he has been assigned too, as well as the woman running the reception there too.

The sea, of course, is a hugely important aspect of the story, and the descriptions really help you picture the coastline, and the ever-changing moods of the water. I love to sit by the sea, when it's calm and when it's stormy, and I especially enjoyed these descriptions. Much of this side of the story is written in a more literary way than your usual crime story, and that might unsettle some readers, but I really enjoyed the more detailed descriptions. You certainly get a feel for this wild, remote coastline, and of how difficult a life lived mostly on the water must be, not just physically, but also because of all the government actions in relation to fishing, as well as licensing restrictions and costs of equipment. There are lots of details in relation to aspects of fishing that are interesting to read, and add detail to the story.

There's also a fair amount written about food through the book, with lots of seafood being caught, cooked and eaten of course, but also Morales cooking up various items that he learned to make in his childhood in Mexico. I found myself feeling hungry as I read, so you might want to be prepared with a tasty snack to hand!

I have to say that I didn't always feel comfortable with the way women were spoken about, or described, within the story, which felt a little odd considering the book is written by a woman. Perhaps it was because we were hearing about the women from the point of view of a middle-aged male character? But even so, there were times when they didn't quite feel like real women, and this was surprising as I really liked the main character, Morales, and I felt he was deftly written. Don't let that put you off though! The book remains incredibly readable, and I raced through it which is always a good sign of a good crime story. I also didn't guess whodunnit, so that made it exciting right through to the end!

For more crime stories set in Canada, you might also want to read The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny or The Worst Dogs: A Progressive Murder-Mystery by Matthew de Lacey Davidson or A Dance of Cranes by Steve Burrows

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