A continuation of the Detective Moralès series, this was my introduction to this author, and easily enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.
Part dread, part horror, and all suspense, this is a brilliantly crafted story with an atmosphere so darkly charged with foreboding, that this reader, for one, finds it hard to remember a less intensely-rewarding reading experience.
In this installment, DS Joaquin Moralès, fifty-three years old, on the brink of divorce, is a lonely man. Estranged, adrift, and searching for some form of release, Joaquin agrees to join a ski-trip around the Gaspe Peninsula in an attempt to free his mind of the constantly lingering thoughts of his colleague, Simone Lorde.
Simone Lorde is pushing forty. A Fisheries Officer, she is not afraid of a challenge, and has accepted a post on the remote Magdalen Islands during the harshest months of winter.
When Simone is assigned to observe an out-at-sea seal hunt in progress – our story truly begins, quickly establishing a pace that is so infused with menace you will find it creeping deeply into your bones, where it settles in with a cold clammy chill (skillfully echoed by a setting replete with frigid weather, water, and her assigned frigate, which before long, threatens to become totally ice-bound.)
With a team of experienced seal hunters (all male) as her crew mates – men whose lives are ruled by a different (morally questionable and infinitely brutal) code – it’s pretty clear that Simone may be in a situation quickly escalating to one that is both terrifying and totally out-of-control.
As the “frothing sea turns bloody by a crimson sun”, a storm is brewing, and the seal hunt has become criminally complex – it may or may not now intersect a violent homicide case under examination by DS Moralès and his contemporaries, back in the “safety” of the peninsula.
“The hunters were staring at her through eyes red with either fatigue, or the sight of blood”.
As the clock ticks down for Simone, (herself perhaps now, “the hunted”), this terrifying and multi-layered story explores themes of survival under the most abysmal conditions, and the long-established (and now heavily moderated) brutality of seal-hunting, where accepted practices dictate an up-close and personal kill, that, as horrifying as it is in its primitive savagery, is simply another day’s work for those who are hardened to the life.
One cannot unsee brutality, once encountered.
How does one successfully navigate life with a civilized frame-of-reference (back now, to love, and acceptance, and even relief), after another bloody cull (up close and personal) is completed?
A dilemma, perhaps, shared by lonely detectives and their ever-coveted partners?
A great big thank you to @Orendabooks for an ARC of this superb book. All thoughts presented are my own.