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.
We Were the Salt of the Sea was published on the 30th January 2018 by Orenda Books (30th March 2018 in paperback). Many thanks to Orenda Books for having me on the blog tour and providing me with my copy of the book for this review.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is an absolutely beautiful book, both in its narrative and its setting. It is clear from the outset that the author is familiar with its setting and, as such, transports her reader to Gaspé.
Catherine Day finds herself in the remote fishing village in search of her mother however when she mentions her name for the first time, it is clear that she was not well liked in the community. Whilst Catherine is familiarising herself with her surroundings and the locals, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets and she is instantly recognised as Marie Garant. The investigation into Marie’s death lands at the feet of Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales who has recently moved to Gaspé.
We Were the Salt of the Sea starts off slowly as the reader is introduced to Catherine, Joaquin and Gaspé but once Marie’s body is found, the pace begins to increase. These introductions are key to the rest of the book as we understand both Catherine and Joaquin’s motives for being in Gaspé. I didn’t particularly warm to Catherine however I think that this is the point! Catherine has spent a long time knowing that she was given up by her mother and therefore has many unanswered questions, as such it is unsurprising that she is pretty aloof! That said, early on in the book, Catherine meets and builds up a relationship with Cyrille, who was in my opinion the best character! Cyrille is an older gentleman who Catherine immediately bonds with, he is extremely loyal, caring and nurturing – the sort of friend that anyone would be pleased to have in a crisis.
What is evident is that Gaspé is a very tight knit fishing community that is too familiar with heartache so it is extremely hard for Joaquin to infiltrate this circle of trust to obtain any sort of answers surrounding his investigation into Marie’s death.
The writing is absolutely stunning, its lyrical narrative draws you in from the start as the words just float from the page. Once again, kudos to the translator as the flow of the narrative is seamless.
As local fisherman Vital says in the book (a lot 🙂 ), ‘Christ in a chalice’, We Were the Salt of the Sea is a sublime read that is beautiful from start to end. A great investigation in a beautiful setting with the sea as much of a central character as Catherine and Joaquin.
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.