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3.5 out of 5 stars
North of Boston
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 December 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm not too sure what this novel is meant to be - it's mainly an eco-thriller but has many other parts which are unnecessary and just don't fit. The main character, Pirio,falls into the sea and apparently survives for longer than most of us would. This astounds the US Navy so they do tests and I'm thinking what on earth this has to do with the story. As it turns out - nothing. Pirio has a friend called Thomasina who is totally superfluous to the story. She is a truly awful character. She is the mother [biologically] of Noah. Oh come on - in a novel with a maritime eco problem as a theme, is this the best name to use, seriously? Both Pirio and Thomasina are extremely rich and I failed to sympathise with either of them. You're the heiress to a perfume fortune and you phone in with a sickie? What, like the rest of us? Ho Ho! When she's got fed up and angry with Thomasina's angst, Prio sets off to deal with bad guys who are doing things they shouldn't in the Arctic. Guess what! They're rich as well! But to balance things out, there's a former lover who calls her "darlin' ". I think this is meant to show that he's Irish.
But it all ends happily. Well, sort of.
For all that, it does read well and like Pirio, I find what she uncovers reprehensible and I was willing her to succeed. For the most part, it's quite well written. I do, however, wonder about lines like "I know you must be hurting and I always want to be there for you." and why is an only child's Christmas morning described as "pathetic"? I have serious issues with the amount of bad language though. I've often thought it a sign of a poor writer. I found the last three words of Chapter 5 deeply objectionable.
Perhaps it needed better editing? Certainly a few relatively small tweaks would have made it a better novel. And a better title would help.
I'm sorry to be so negative about a first novel but I feel it should have been worked on a bit more. Words that I'm sure Ms Elo has used herself to her students?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 December 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I remember being almost half way through and wondering where this book was going, other than a meander through the lives of our principal character Pirio, and those around her who are affected by the death of Ned, father to Noah, ex-lover to Noah's mother Thomasina, and friend of Pirio, who has died in a fishing accident. The book eventually settles into the whodunit the blurb above says it is, and the final section is written at a brisk pace that's absorbing. I thought it all ended rather quickly, given all the detail that comes before, although to be fair, there's a degree resolution of some issues, if not all.
There's a lot of detail here, and this is a densely written book, but in whodunits you're looking ahead trying to figure things out, and if you're not sure what you're trying to figure out, then I for one, get frustrated. There's loads of back story and information about people, and I didn't know what was significant, and what was world building. Is Pirio's tolerance to cold, made much of at times, significant? And how about her father's past, her mother's perfume, a renewed contact with an old lover, the navy's interest?
For some reason I didn't engage with Pirio - warm and cuddly she ain't! I found her sleuthing at times (a) unlikely, or (b) really, really stupid - potentially dangerous, not only to her but to those she was blithely involving.
The setting for this book is interesting - the rough world of fishing against the more elegant world of perfume creation, together with alcoholism, kicking against your past, friendship, love for family, friends, children, lovers, and I had no problem finishing it, even if it did take a while to grab my interest. It's well written in the first person, with lots of detail and observation, and I loved Noah - far too wise for his years, but still engagingly young. There are clues dropped early on that only make sense at the end, so maybe I'll try it again with the benefit of hind sight...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 26 March 2015
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a thick fog a freighter collides with a lobster boat, Molly Jones. The captain Ned is killed and the only passenger, Pirio Kasperov finds herself in the icy cold waters of the ocean. She is found by the Coast guard hours later, a surprise survivor as few live in such low temperatures.

Pirio returns home and see her godson Noah and his mother, Thomasina, a close friend. Thomasina is addicted to both alcohol and drugs, but is trying to break her habits to be a good mother.

The navy are interested to know how Pirio was able to survive the extreme conditions. She agrees to undergo tests, but leaves suddenly after a call from Noah. The boy is clever and understanding and as he trusts Pirio always turns to her for help.

When Pirio has seen that Noah is safe she begins her own investigation into the loss of the Molly Jones and the death of Ned. She comes up against a wall of silence.

Pirio meets Mrs. Smith, a former employee of Ocean Catch a large fishing organisation. Mrs Smith gives as much information as she can remember. Ned had also worked for the Company, but suddenly left and unusually was given the Molly Jones as a gift.

After many dead end enquiries Pirio meets Parnell who now becomes involved in the investigation. He arranges for her to get aboard the Sea Wolf, a vessel that goes on long voyages to undisclosed destinations. However, when Pirio goes to join the ship she finds herself taken on board the galaxy a more luxurious vessel with a group of very wealthy men on board.

They set sail and Pirio now finds she is trapped on board with an unpleasant ex. boyfriend, Johnny, as part of the crew. Slowly she discovers the true purposes of the voyages. But how can she pass the information to Parnell as already she has been threatened and her phone, laptop and ipad confiscated. She must escape, but who can she turn to for help?

This novel seems unsure of what it is - a mystery, an eco-message or revelations of the devious actions of big business. Both Pirio and Thomasina are wealthy women. Pirio is future heiress to a perfume company. This is another strand added to the story.

There are far too many characters brought into the story. Too much time is spent on the lives and actions of Thomasina and Noah. Pirio's escapes are too easy and the ending is sudden and brief. There is no particular likeable character, not even Pirio.

An overlong and not outstanding novel. Descriptions of the northern wilderness and ocean are the most interesting parts.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2015
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"North of Boston" sneaks up on you as only a true thriller can!! I was so enthralled that, by the second chapter, I found it impossible to put down. Author Elisabeth Elo was new to me and I had no idea what to expect other than a brief extract from the back cover that did not come close to doing justice to the content!

Pirio Kasparov is our heroine of the hour and survives a horrendous sinking of the small lobster boat that she was helping to man (as a favour to an old friend Ned, father of her Godson, Noah). A huge freighter came out of the fog, ploughed into the small craft and sailed off into the night. What seemed incredible was that she survived long enough, in the frigid waters of the northeastern United States, to be rescued by the coastguard while her friend and owner of the boat disappeared, presumed drowned. No-one can understand how she managed to survive in such a sub-zero sea for so long. It interests the US Navy enough to put her through extreme cold water testing at which she proves a strange gift.

However, we are soon introduced to Thomasina, mother of Noah and ex-partner of Ned, her lost friend. Thomasina and Pirio come from different but wealthy origins and attended the same tough boarding school becoming close at an early age. Pirio is her own person, a strong individual - while Thomasina, seeking relationships, has also sought refuge in the bottle. Pirio keeps a watching eye on Noah, rescuing him as needed from his mother's inebriation. We learn something of their backgrounds and of Pirio's Russian father who, with her mother fled to America as a young couple. Pirio's mother founded a very successful perfumery, succumbing to an early death and Pirio's father remarried. Pirio works for the company with her step-mother.- This is merely the background and the top of the iceberg that becomes Pirio's quest, taunted by her father, to find our how the lobster boat sank and why Ned died. She seeks answers for herself, for Noah and for Thomasina. Her quest becomes very challenging. No-one is whom they seem to be and Pirio's relationships with her family and friends become closer but strained. Pirio is not to be thwarted!

For a first novel,this is far from a novice attempt. It is exceedingly well-written and holds the reader in its grasp from the first couple of chapters. The characters are intelligent, the plot devious and twisting. I cannot spoil it for a potential reader but must add that an eco element is wonderfully drafted in. A real adventure book for all. Highly recommended.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Pirio Kasparov is pulled from the sea after hours afloat when she is the sole survivor of a boat wreck. Her rescuers are perplexed by her ability to survive 40F (4C) water for such an extended period of time, when she should have been dead long before. Pirio herself, however, is more concerned with finding out who rammed their boat in the darkness, killing her friend Ned and leaving her best friend Thomasina's son, Noah, without a father. She embarks upon an illicit investigation, discovering far more than she bargained for. But will Pirio make it out alive as she swims in such dangerous waters?

This is a run-of-the-mill, if readable thriller; what made it memorable for me was the detail on Pirio's superpower abilities to survive immersion in cold water. To be honest, there was no reason to give Pirio such an unbelievable talent, as it doesn't further the plot at all beyond enabling her to survive the initial incident. However, the detail on how our bodies react to cold water is fascinating, after I'd translated all the Farenheit references into Celsius. I'm now even more impressed by those who are taking a dip in the Lake District next month in 5C water, if a bit concerned for them at the same time! This novel, however, stretched credulity in other ways than giving Pirio cold-water immunity. She also possesses a ridiculous knack of bargaining her way out of danger by appealing to the self-interest of various goons who have her captive at one point or another. I found these scenes cliched and unbelievable, and indeed the whole second half of the novel seemed to swing out of control, moving away from 'literary thriller' to 'trashy read.' The treatment of Pirio's relationship with Thomasina and Noah is one saving grace, and this thread is well-handled throughout the novel; but I found it more difficult to get a grip on Pirio herself, who says that she 'hates getting wet and cold' at the start of the book but by the end is acting like a stunt double.

My overall impression of this thriller was that the cold-water business makes a good hook, but I wasn't sure it would be worth reading without it. I'll be interested to see what Elizabeth Elo writes next.
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VINE VOICEon 19 March 2015
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Its difficult to know what to make of this one, really. Its a novel that doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be or what it wants to focus on.

It's labelled "slow burning" in the blurb and it is true to say that it takes a very long time to really get going. There's a lot of exploration of characters and lots of dense information and at time you wonder what it all means. Sadly you'll find out in due course that some of it doesn't really mean anything. There's quite a lot of stuff that attempts to add to atmosphere and the back story but that actually doesn't really add much to either.

Some characters are engaging, others aren't. There's not enough of the former to elevate it nor enough of the latter to really drag things down. One thing it foes have in its favour is that our protagonist Pirio Kasparov is an engaging and believable character who always manages to help ground the story in reality. You'll want her to succeed as you read.

The slow opening and middle is somewhat offset by the relatively fast conclusions, albeit that they really come too fast given what's gone before. A bit of judicious editing early on would have improved things for me.

I liked it to a degree, but on the whole it just didn't quite grab me enough.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The classical story structure has us introduced to the protagonist before the event that changes their life takes place. In 'North of Boston', we meet our heroine, Pirio, back at home after her miraculous survival in ice-cold seas following the sinking of the fishing boat she was helping to crew.

Investigating the hit-and-run ramming of her boat by a much larger ship, Pirio stumbles upon a secret that could get her killed, while at the same time dealing with love, loss, friends and family.

Author Elisabeth Elo is a teacher of creative writing, and it shows. The prose is polished and the plot kept (relatively) plausible. Only some slowing of the pace to flesh out the incidental characters spoils the rhythm of the book. Whether these people are destined for a reappearance in a later book, I don't know, but Ms Elo has perhaps given them too much attention if we are never to meet them again.

In the book's final third, the action resumes and becomes compelling, making it difficult to take a break from reading, but in some ways the ending is a little too neat and lacking in consequences (current or future) for the protagonists. Perhaps that will be the premise of a sequel?
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Certainly ‘North of Boston’ is a thrilling read, and it’s nice to have an eco-theme, but for me its plot is just too implausible and it becomes more and more convoluted as it progresses, with characters explored rather than developed. Numerous individuals and experiences are hardly relevant to the story, lots of surplus detail is included and there are too many implausible crisis situations when the main protagonist, Pirio Kasparov, unrealistically escapes disaster.

Pirio is aboard a fishing vessel that is rammed by a freighter; her companion is killed but she escapes death via hypothermia due to some super-human condition, and she goes on as first-person narrator to tell of how she seeks justice for her deceased companion and becomes embroiled in struggling to save the whale from hunters and illegal fishing organisations. Not only does Pirio escape disasters, she also leaves out whole chunks of detail between an inescapable situation and the later continuation of the implausible plot. Over and over she acts not just unwisely, but stupidly puts herself in great danger, and though this makes for a thrilling read the novel is only average – hence 3-star rating.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2014
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Punchy, good characterisation and compelling. There are many themes in this novel, from perfumery, whaling, surviving physical extremes, relationships with alcoholics, children of alcoholics, heiresses, being single with a boozy past. Piero is a mixture of financial privilege and having a dodgy drinkers past. She is an interesting narrator and heroine, not completely unreliable and apparently completely reliable. Her role is unpaid detective: determined to discover who killed her friend. The description of the illegal whalers and what they get up to a Baffin Bay is deeply upsetting and ghastly. I am not sure I was fully prepared for this. There are a couple things that stretch credibility a little far here including Piero volunteering to join an illegal whaling ship and the ease of her escape later on.

Interesting and compelling. I hope North of Boston highlights the plight of our rare, often almost extinct species (in the widest sense) still being hunted by ruthless hunters, just for the thrill of the kill.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Not quite the thrilling type of read I thought it would be.

Lots of detail seemed to have gone into this story but I did think that it would take on a thrilling nature more than it did. A long build up that sadly for me did not keep me gripped by it.

Pirio survives so may hours in the water, Ned lost to the sea. Why the boat is attacked and sunk seems to open up a can of worms and one of which Pirio wants answers to. The books blurb made it sound much more exciting and thriller like than it gave out for me sadly.

Pirio goes about finding out just happened on that day in a business like way. Finding out more along the way as to why and who was behind it all.
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