“Taking on water” by David Rawding

I chose to read this novel because one of the protagonists is a lobsterman.  Since I live in Nova Scotia, where lobster fishing is a huge industry, I thought it would be fun to read a mystery centered around this physically demanding, arduous way of making a living.


When James Morrow, a social worker, first meets Kevin Flynn, he suspects the teen is being abused. To learn more about Kevin’s home life, he gets to know the boy’s father, Tucker, who’s a lobsterman. James is able to put his suspicions to rest, and the two families begin to form a friendship.

When a kid at the local recreation center dies of an overdose, Detective Maya Morrow adds the case to the long list related to the drug problem plaguing the small New Hampshire coastal town of Newborough. But her investigation gets her much too close to the dangerous players.

Both the Morrows and the Flynns are holding dark secrets, and when their lives collide, tragedy is inevitable.

Let me introduce you to the two male protagonists in “Taking on water”.

The main protagonist is James Morrow.  A social worker, James works for New Hampshire Child Protective Services.  He is married to Maya, one of the town’s only black female police detectives.  Crazy about each other, they are trying to have a baby. In his free time James volunteers at a Youth Recreation center.  James comes from a dysfunctional family where his father was an abusive alcoholic. Like his father before him, James has anger management issues which he struggles daily to keep under control.

“We are the products of our memories, for better or worse. They make us into the people we are.”

When James meets Kevin, a young boy with bruises at the rec center, he fears the boy may be abused, so he contrives to meet Kevin’s parents.  He learns that he is mistaken about the abuse, but finds a new friend in lobsterman Tucker Flynn. Tucker takes James out on his boat, and the two couples socialize.

Tucker Flynn, is a lifelong fisherman, married with a young son. (He had two sons, but the eldest one died). He inherited his lobster license and boat ‘Periwinkle‘ from his father. Along with these, he inherited loads of debt and is in danger of losing his house.  A volatile man, he is now being threatened by a fellow fisherman, his lines are being cut, and his livelihood sabotaged. When a devastating storm hits, Tucker loses thousands of dollars worth of fishing gear. He is now a desperate man.

“Lady Justice seemed to lift up her blindfold and wink at the privileged.”

The novel is set in the small New Hampshire coastal town of Newborough. Heroin is taking its toll on the small community.  Maya has been involved in the arrest of one of the supposed dealers, but fears that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  A man jumps to his death from the town’s bridge.  A teenager overdoses at the youth recreation center where James volunteers. Maya has a theory as to how the heroin is entering the town. Proving her theory may endanger everything she holds dear…

David Rawding’s writing has a wonderful flow.  Nothing stilted or contrived – with equal skill at dialogue and narrative. The characters were fully rendered with a mixture of attitudes, thoughts, and past memories making them very ‘real’ for the reader. The plot itself had a realistic feel that I appreciated and I am very anxious to read more work by this author. This is a novel about the lengths desperate men will go to when they feel they have nothing left to lose.  About how avarice breeds corruption, and how corruption can undermine even the most altruistic.

For me, the ending let the novel down in one respect.  Since I never include ‘spoilers’ in my reviews, I can say only that the personality and moral fiber of one of the main characters changed drastically from what it was throughout the rest of the novel.  This change seemed hard for me to come to grips with. Also, I must warn you that if you like books where ‘they all lived happily ever after‘, then this book is NOT for you.

You WILL enjoy it if you like crime thrillers that are well-written and have complex characters. Recommended!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Red Adept Publishing via NetGalley in consideration of an unbiased review.David Rawding is the son of a lobster fisherman. He has a BA in English from The University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his short stories have been published in numerous literary journals and magazines. David spent three years as a fly-fishing guide in Alaska, worked several years at a non-profit for at-risk youth, was an online adjunct professor, and has a litany of other jobs in his wake. When he’s not writing, he enjoys traveling the world with a backpack and a fly rod.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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8 Responses to “Taking on water” by David Rawding

  1. madbooklove says:

    We moved to coastal Maine a year ago (almost to the day!), and I find myself SO attracted to books that are set in the region (New England and the deep north, too) or that relate to activities that are popular in the region…this sounds right up my alley. Adding it to my TBR now.


  2. inspirationpie says:

    I’m from Nova Scotia, too!


  3. You’ve definitely convinced me to take a trip with this book!


  4. This has a very interesting premise and the setting sounds perfect for the story. I was a foster care social worker and I’m drawn to these types of stories. I don’t need a happy ending but I’m curious about the character change. I’ll take a closer look at this, thanks for putting on my radar!


  5. skyecaitlin says:

    I adore the New England shore and the photos are majestic; the protagonists also seem interesting, and I love James Morrow’s job, but the fisherman has my rapt attention. The premise is definitely different, and sometimes change is good.


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