by Chris Riley
Publication date: June 2017
Category: literary suspense / man vs nature action
Summary (from the publisher):
Ed and his childhood friend Danny are gearing up in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to join the Angie Piper’s crew for another season of crab fishing. Ed is a relative newcomer, but despite the perils of the trade, he sees no reason to fear for Danny’s safety. The Angie Piper has always been blessed. She has a stalwart captain, Fred, a crack engineer, Dave, and two time-tested pros to keep the rest of the operation running smoothly, exuberant Loni and the more reticent Salazar.
Every season has a greenhorn, the one who works for a pittance in order to learn the ropes. This time around it is Ed’s friend Danny, no ordinary crewman. Their shared history is complex. Though strong, brave, and hardworking, Danny is a simple soul, and Ed is weighed down by guilt, dark memories of the many times he failed to defend his friend against the inevitable bullying. And cantankerous Dave believes Danny is a bad omen, so much so that his bitter opposition may endanger them all.
The season starts off strong, and the crew is elated by the bounty of their catch. Then their luck turns. The skies grow dark, the waves swell, and Mother Nature bears down on them with her full arsenal. When the storm finally abates, who will live to tell the tale?
A family vacation to Alaska is on my horizon later this summer, so it’s fitting that I read The Sinking of the Angie Piper by Chris Riley.
On that trip I think I’ll stick close to shore.
Riley, a Sacramento-based writer like myself, creates a richly textured backdrop of Alaskan fishing culture against which he tells the tale of the Angie Piper and her crew of commercial crab fishermen working the Gulf of Alaska in winter. Narrator Edward Thurman, a young but not novice member of the crew, has brought his best friend Danny Wilson aboard as the ship’s greenhorn (new crewman)–an act met by the derision of one of the crew, because Danny has Down Syndrome. The reader gets into the ship’s rhythm of hard work and recovery amid terrible cold on the unforgiving sea, feeling the icy spray and alternating ecstasy and weariness of the men.
Then the weather changes.
Grievances and regrets fall away amid an escalating struggle to survive. Author Chris Riley steadily raises the stakes, pushing you to turn the pages toward a satisfying conclusion.
This book does an amazing job of transporting the reader to a distant and strange world on the crabbing vessel which feels totally real. Author Riley has personal experience as an educator working with Down’s kids, which shows in his tender but never maudlin portrayal of Danny. As narrator Ed learns to see that there is more to Danny than he thought, so does the reader.
The Sinking of the Angie Piper is a superb short novel that blends the best of literary and suspense fiction with dramatic themes of man vs himself and man vs nature, with redemption in the end.
I read an advance copy of this book which I received for free from the author.
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