Daughter of Russian immigrants, Pirio Kasparov spent her teens in a boarding school where she became best friends with Thomasina, another young woman shuffled out of the way of well-to-do parents. Maintaining their friendship as adults led to Pirio working one foggy night baiting lobster traps for Thomasina’s husband, Ned Rizzo north of Boston Harbor. What should have been a smelly though routine job turned deadly when a huge tanker collided with the small lobster boat throwing Pirio into the frigid north Atlantic water and killing Ned. Dubbed “the swimmer” after miraculously surviving four hours in the bitterly cold water, Pirio is concerned when there are no leads into who was responsible for the collision.Concerned for Ned’s son Noah, an intelligent, withdrawn ten year old, especially when Thomansia seems determined to drink herself to death, Pirio works to give the boy some stability and answers about what happened to his father. Stymied by official channels, Pirio teams up with investigative reporter Russell Parnell to find some answers to what she comes to believe was a murder. The trail takes Pirio and Russell from Boston to Baffin Bay, Canada while revealing an international marine mammal parts smuggling ring with connections around the globe. Now they need to survive long enough to alert authorities, but that is no easy task when old friends become the enemy and there is no one left to trust.
This strong debut has an interesting if a bit far-fetched premise that packs plenty of atmosphere and tension. The numerous circumstances stretch credibility but make for an exciting story. Pirio is self centered enough to believe every male in eyeshot thinks she is totally hot, a flaw that while humanizing can become annoying. Luckily, Pirio’s concern for Noah balances her character. Family issues, a lost perfume formula and the need to protect our precious wildlife add nice depth to this richly envisioned murder mystery that shows a great deal of promise from this emerging author.