As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation.
On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky… Both a dark and consuming crime thriller and a lyrical, poetic ode to the sea, We Were the Salt of the Sea is a stunning, page-turning novel, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
It's my pleasure to be one of the hosts for the blog tour for We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard today. Many thanks to the author, publisher and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my ecopy of the novel.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is a mystery but unlike most thrillers, the if, who or why a crime has been committed isn't really at the heart of this beautifully lyrical novel. Before I start my review properly I must thank David Warriner for his superb work translating the book as he has perfectly captured the exquisitely poetic language of Roxanne's Bouchard's words for those of us who don't read French.
The book opens in 1974 with a birth at sea. In 2007, that baby is Catherine Day, now a thirty-three year old woman who has become adrift from life somewhat and on the advice of her doctor decides to take a trip. She has received a letter from the Key West and it is this that spurs her to visit Caplan, a small fishing village on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. She is hoping to learn more about her birth mother, Marie Garant but quickly learns that her name invokes a strange reaction in the villagers; just who was this woman and why don't people want to talk about her? Shortly after arriving, Marie's body is discovered caught up in a fisherman's nets and as Catherine needs to find more about her mother's life, Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales has to investigate her death.
Catherine and Joaquin are the outsiders during most of the novel, neither really understanding how this little village by the ocean really functions. This is a place that is indelibly linked to both the sea and to its past, to a time when the waters were full of fish, hearts were won and lost and lives were stolen by the waves. Catherine has a sense of detachment about her which is entirely fitting with her mental health but it does make it hard to fully know her. Joaquin, on the other hand is almost at the mercy of his emotions as he is immediately flung into the case on his arrival in the village. Both eventually begin to fall under the spell of the area but it's the villagers who really give We Were the Salt of the Sea its heart. With their distinct voices, they bring the village and novel to life. Caplan's glory days are over now but the history they share still reaches into their lives as their secrets about love, anger and guilt that have been kept for years must come to light once more.
There is such a richly immersive sense of place about Roxanne Bouchard's book; I could almost smell the briny air and taste the salt tang on my lips. The sea exerts a physical and emotional hold over the inhabitants of the village, some are carried away by its waves, some are destined to spend their lives trawling its depths and others will be swallowed up by its power but its rhythm is as much a part of them as the beating of their hearts.
We Were the Salt of the Sea isn't the book for those looking for a gritty, action-packed thriller but its more gentle pacing allows for an engrossing look at the dark complexities of a close knit community. This is a highly original, thoughtful and engaging story about love and loss that will appeal to anybody seeking more literary crime fiction.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is published by Orenda Books is available now as an ebook and will be available in paperback from 30th March 2018. It can be pre-ordered or purchased here.
Don't forget to check out some of the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.
About 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.
About the Translator
David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home. Twitter