The dual definition of a lobster lover is one of the many charms of this clever, entertaining book. Many prologues start with a meal, but in this case the lobster is eating. "Dinner is served" seems a just turnabout.
Clinging like a limpet to the edges of Prince Edward Island is The Shores, a weathered and fading village of subsistence farming and fishing. It has been cut off by the storm-tossed failure of a causeway. Spurred by a militant local delegation, the government has agreed to repair the breach, but for now it's serviced by a small ferry and a haphazard taxi service. Wealthy bon vivant Hawthorne Parker, whose calling cards read "Aesthete," has taken up residence in a home perilously close to the water. A Clifton Webbish sort of a man, he's installed a kitchen to die for while he awaits the arrival of his lover, who is also his chef. Theirs is hardly a romantic relationship. With the cook's cocaine habit, it's an accident in waiting. Their tumultuous history is bittersweet and plays against stereotypes. In addition to the stainless-steel designer kitchen, which contains its own lobster pool, Parker has ordered a wickedly clever death machine which can stun a lobster and bypass the agony of the boiling water routine. "Which part goes in first" seems to be a subject of much argument on the island. As it should, this fearful and uber-phallic device will make another very fatal appearance.
Bungling around in the background for local colour as varied as their accents, repairing their traps, launching their boats, baking muffins, or smuggling whatever's in need, are the many eccentric townsfolk. When they're not hoisting a few brews at the inn, they're wondering what mischief their neighbours are planning. A mysterious force is trying to sabotage the tourist industry by subverting politics at the Women's Institute. Foretold by an ambiguous website which pops up on the computer screen of copywriter Hy McAllister, the Legionnaires of Lobster Lovers have arrived in defense of their favourite crustacean. A eponymous boat sails the harbour like the Flying Dutchman, disappearing when pursued. The dinner is trashed at the traditional lobster supper, an economic mainstay of the island within an island.
The tone is serio-comic. Environmental issues aside, lobsters are too delicious and too ugly to attract a following like the beleaguered baby seals. MacLeod writes with a lyrical love of the salt-aired setting where everyone's a newcomer unless his family arrived in 1750. Even the lowly lobster takes a turn at romance in one of the milder paragraphs among many steamy scenes depicting sex for these oversized cockroaches:
"He clutches her around the waist, flips her over and takes her in the missionary position, their beady little eyes staring unseeing at each other. Call it a blind date. He's a surprisingly tender lover. Hard shell, soft heart? She has a hard heart and pro-choice attitude. She stores his sperm and takes off with it."
Clearly a fan of PEI and its magic, MacLeod writes with honest passion about a place which she cherishes, with a nod to The Shipping News. The ending calls for a dish of drawn butter and a tasty claw. If you've never visited this part of the country and like a bit of mystery with your Anne of Green Gables, you are in for an enjoyable armchair vacation as pandemonium breaks out in gentle PEI.