The Coral Bride is the second novel in Roxanne Bouchard’s D.S Morales series, the first being We Are The Salt Of The Sea. I think this easily read as a stand alone novel, but I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to read the first one. I’m not surprised, because I’ve never met an Orenda book I didn’t like!
The opening to the novel is haunting as a woman lies on the deck of a fishing boat. Somehow she has been rigged up so that she will eventually be dragged from the trawler and under the freezing cold water. She knows these are her final moments. As an opening it is very effective and sets up the main character in the novel: the sea. The sea is the life’s blood of people in this region – a small fishing village in Quebec. Angel Roberts is a very rare thing in this community, a woman with her own trawler who fishes for lobster. She’s named her boat Close Call II showing a good sense of humour too. The sea is her livelihood and there’s definitely an affinity with it. She is treated with suspicion by the rest of the trawlermen, because fishing here has always been a male dominated industry. However, the sea doesn’t just separate, it also brings people together, even Detective Morales and his son Sebastien.
Another recurring character is the moon, depicted as a silvery path reflecting off the water. Angel has always been told the moon is a liar and not to be trusted. However, it seems there may be another character in Angel’s life who isn’t what they seem. Morales finds out that every year Angel and her husband would dress up in their wedding finery and have a celebration on their anniversary. If her husband is to be believed he drove his wife home when she was tired and then returned to the bar. Then after 1am, it seems that Angel drove herself down to the harbour and took the boat out, still in her wedding dress? Detective Morales is a quiet and thoughtful man, who doesn’t jump to conclusions and I loved the way the author let the mystery breathe in the same way. You have chance to really think about peope’s stories alongside Morales, and I liked that the pace seemed to fit with the landscape and community. This is much more than a ‘whodunnit’. It explores the spirit of this community, and I especially enjoyed the loyalty and bravery of the fisherman. They really respect the sea and I respect them because it is such a tough way to earn a living. We get to explore the tribal aspects of this community, how relationships between people develop and change over the years. But as always, where there are old relationships there are old resentments.
Familial relationships are explored too as Morales’ son Sebastien has turned up unexpectedly with his car full of pots and pans. He’s a chef and he’s had a fall out with his girlfriend. I got a sense that Morales doesn’t really know his son, or Sebastien is acting out of character. Sebastien flirts with a female constable on his team; Morales has only seen her buttoned up, but ten minutes in Sebastien’s company and her hair is down and she’s doing salsa. There was sense that Sebastian will bring chaos to his life. Yet they have a shared experience, Morales is currently living alone and away from his wife. Maybe this is where father and son could understand each other better. These relationships gave the book depth and elevated it above the average thriller. I enjoyed the police team, the conflicts and allegiances. I loved the section where Morales was shown to his temporary office and it’s packed to the rafters with files stacked everywhere. It’s like this quiet, thoughtful, man has escaped to an out of the way place and people are challenging him on all sides. The space he has enjoyed is being encroached upon – Sebastien inviting him to salsa and let his hair down, the chaos of police files surrounding him, his son sleeping on his couch. It’s not long before, in his life and the investigation, he feels blocked in on all sides. I found this novel had a great sense of place and a thoughtful, intelligent hero. It was atmospheric, lyrical in parts and emotionally literate. The image of a woman being slowly pulled into the water, with her wedding dress glowing in the moonlight until she is swallowed up by the dark will stay with me for some time.
Meet 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 Roxanne on Twitter @RBouchard72 and on her website: roxannebouchard.com