Sequel to the critically acclaimed We Were the Salt of the Sea
– The Coral Bride
[ About the Book ]
In this beautiful, lyrical sequel to the critically acclaimed We Were the Salt of the Sea, Detective Moralès finds that a seemingly straightforward search for a missing fisherwoman off Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is anything but.
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.
[ My Review ]
The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard was published yesterday, November 12th, with Orenda Books. It is the second book in this series featuring Detective Joaquin Moralès from the author who has been dubbed the ‘Queen of Quebec Suspense.’ It is described as a book that is ‘exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose…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‘ Excellently translated by David Warriner, The Coral Bride is a feast for the senses, as the reader is taken on a journey to Quebec, and to a part of the world that is very unfamiliar to many of us, the Gaspé Peninsula. This is a region of small fishing villages, a summer and winter tourist destination, multi-cultural and home to the infamous Percé Rock, the Gaspé Peninsula’s most popular tourist attraction.
Detective Joaquin Moralès left his Mexican homeland many years back to marry a young Canadian woman, Sarah, who stole his heart. Now, with his marriage in difficulty, he has moved to Bonaventure, a town on the Gaspé Peninsula, and has settled in well among the locals. Moralés is trying to sort out his life and what his future holds. All through the years he has maintained his composure and, in his own mind, has shielded his family from the horrors and violence associated with his job. Here, near the Gulf of St. Lawrence, he hopes to make peace with himself and the path he has chosen.
His son, Sébastien, is also trying to battle his own demons and makes an impulsive decision to follow his father and join him on the coast. The first Moralés hears of this is from a colleague asking him to collect his son from a neighbouring station having been hauled in for drunk and disorderly behaviour.
The father/son relationship is strained and has been for some time. Words need to be said. Truths need to be told. But a missing person case takes precedence when a local fisherwoman from a neighbouring town, Angel Roberts, disappears. Angel Roberts was last seen wearing her wedding dress after returning home unwell from an evening out with her husband. This was an annual tradition as she and her husband celebrated their wedding anniversary. What was initially a missing persons case soon becomes something much more when Angel Roberts lobster trawler is located adrift at sea with no-one on board.
As the search for Angel is widened, questions are asked and Moralés is handed the lead on the case. Moralés soon discovers a deep and disturbing history in this town going back years. With opposition every which way he turns Moralés has the assistance of local policeman Eric Lefebvre, and fisheries officer, Simone Lord. Simone is somewhat aggressive toward Moralés and he is unsure of his footing with her, but she has the knowledge of the sea that he needs. Biting his tongue he attempts to establish a working relationship with both.
When the body of Angel Roberts surfaces, it soon becomes quite clear that something much darker is at play, especially when Moralés finds himself faced with a wall of silence. With his personal life in crisis and his relationship with his son in-flux, Moralés needs to dig deep within himself to figure out exactly what happened to Angel Roberts. A once very successful business woman, who up to now, had survived all the criticism and challenges of a career in such a male dominated environment and whose life was now cut short in such a dramatic and complex fashion.
The Coral Bride is most definitely a murder mystery, but do not think that that is all you are getting. Roxanne Bouchard is obviously very passionate about where she lives and it shows in the almost poetic descriptions of the Gaspé Peninsula. The family dynamic, as a theme, runs strong through the whole book as relationships are developed and destroyed. Pasts are unveiled and secrets are discovered. The past has a way of catching up with us all. How we interpret it and act determines our fate.
There is a lot to this book, with many characters, all adding their own story to the mix. Sébastien’s behaviour did irritate me, which I felt was an unnecessary distraction from the central premise of the story. I felt too many words were written about his antics so I admittedly paid less heed to him. Moralés, on the other hand, is a deep-thinking, loving and concerned individual who I hoped would find the peace he craved.
Overall, there is an ethereal feeling throughout The Coral Bride, from the tragedy of the title to the discovery of Angel Roberts body. The scene described is haunting and has stayed with me since due to it’s striking portrayal. Evoking a sense of loss, a sense of unfinished business, dreams unfulfilled and an almost acceptance of one’s fate lends a melancholic air to the tale. With powerful depictions of a people and a place, The Coral Bride is a very expressive and poignant read.
A very atmospheric read, The Coral Bride is a love story to Quebec, a mesmerising tale of family and greed and of a community whose greatest passion, the sea, can also be its most powerful adversary.
[ Bio ]
Over 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. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 201 to great acclaim.
She lives in Quebec.
Twitter ~ @RBouchard72