Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
A lobster boat is rammed by a freighter twenty miles north of Boston and Ned, her skipper, is drowned. His friend, Pirio Kasparov, crewing for him as a favour, is rescued after four hours in the icy water.
Back onshore, as Pirio struggles to explain the disaster to Noah, Ned's ten-year-old boy who is also her godson, she feels compelled to seek justice: to track down and identify the ship which she sees as the vehicle of hit-and-run criminals.
As she starts to trace it she encounters a reporter tangentially interested in the collision himself, but he is delving into Ned's past. There are hints of abnormal behaviour, the expensive fishing boat having been a gift from Ned's former employers. There are mystifying photos on Noah's mobile, sent by his father. Pirio's flat is broken into and nothing stolen. She senses a stalker.
Suspicions meld and questions proliferate. Could the hit-and-run have been more: a deliberate running down? But if it was no random act, how did the freighter locate a speck in the Atlantic? And critically, what could have been the motivation? The compulsion to find answers takes Pirio to Northern Canada, dogsbody on a luxury yacht, to find unexpected allies among the Inuit, and witnessing a bloodbath that has nothing to do with greed or sex but sheer lust for killing.
Initially North of Boston is an exquisite portrayal of relationships: Pirio's with her delightful godson, with his alcoholic mother, with her own fierce Russian father. Elo sets her stage slowly and with care, flowing seamlessly through detection of obscene crimes into the Grand Guignol of that Arctic cruise.