Perfume heiress turns unwilling sleuth in Elo’s suspense series launch.
Pirio Kasparov is learning scent sense from her irascible father, who still runs the Boston-based perfume empire founded by Pirio’s late mother after the family emigrated from Russia. Although she expects to inherit the business one day, a hefty allowance and flexible work schedule allow her plenty of time for extracurricular activities, including going on a lobstering trip with her friend Ned Rizzo aboard his new boat, the Molly Jones. Their outing proves disastrous when, although they are nowhere near a shipping lane, the giant hull of a freighter cleaves the smaller craft in two, killing Ned and leaving Pirio drifting on a board in the freezing Atlantic. She is rescued, and the fact that she survived in cold water much longer than average, without succumbing to hypothermia, has elicited the interest of the U.S. Navy, which wants to study her. But she has little time to be a guinea pig for her country: She has her hands full with Ned’s son, Noah, and Noah’s unreliable, alcoholic mother, Thomasina, Ned’s ex-girlfriend. Clues unearthed during one of Thomasina’s drunken escapades fan Pirio’s vague suspicion into a full-blown conviction that Ned’s death was no accident. Apparently, Ned purchased the Molly Jones for $1 from his former employer, a mega-fishing concern called Ocean Catch. A chance encounter with an Ocean Catch insider leads to another startling revelation: Before suddenly leaving (or being fired?), Ned had crewed on the giant fishing trawler Sea Wolf. That boat’s crew was receiving periodic, off-the-books cash bonuses despite hauling in a minimal amount of legal catch. Was the Sea Wolf hauling contraband? Had Ocean Catch, or someone else, tried to buy Ned’s silence with the gift of a lobster boat? Who stood to gain by his death? Elo’s lively style and the vivid characters lend credence and heft to an original, if ungainly, conspiracy-thriller plot.
The groundwork is well-laid for future Pirio Kasparov adventures.