(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores June 2018.)
SHARK FIN SOUP
One whole chicken or one lb. of Jinhua ham
Two cups of water
One cup of Shaoxing wine
Three dried shark fins
Cook chicken or ham down in the water, creating a broth. Strain and add wine and fins to broth. Simmer for one hour. Stir until fins are broken up into thin translucent noodles. Noodles are tasteless and have no food value.
Note: This Chinese soup is fabled to bring long life; the longer the fin noodle from a big shark, the longer the life of the diner. It might also bring good fortune and is considered an aphrodisiac. Because of the Asian fin demand for this soup, 100 million sharks are killed each year. Sharks grow slowly, some taking more than a decade to mature, and produce a small number of pups, therefore one-third of all shark species are expected to be extinct within the next decade. At this time, three species of hammerhead, the tiger, the bull, the oceanic white tip, and others have been reduced in population by 97 percent. Without these predators balancing the ocean environment, reefs around the world are in decline.
Bahamas, November 2012
Christian gripped the wheel and gazed at the watery dark horizon and fall sunset, the color of blood. Bare feet planted on the pitching deck, he stood as motionless as marble, his tall, lean frame braced in the Caribbean breeze that tugged at his open shirt like an impatient lover. Only his blond hair stirred, the tousled locks flicking at his deep-blue eyes.
Beneath him, the forty-seven-foot Catalina surged under full sail through the swells, but Christian's mind was not on his sloop, the sea, or sky. His thoughts dwelled on Allie and her lifeless body in the forward berth. He dropped his head and closed his moist eyes. It should've been me. I should be in there instead of her.
After a while he glanced up, bleary-eyed, and saw the outcrop of islands far ahead. He readjusted his course and brushed the tears off his cheeks. "Goddamn it, Christian, get your head out of this nightmare."
The blue waters had turned to black, and the first stars of the evening appeared sharp and clear when Christian's sloop, Hank's Dream, entered the bay. Up ahead, Nassau was on the right and Paradise Island on the left. The Bahamian waters mirrored the glittering lights from the docked cruise ships the size of cities and the high-rise hotels of the Atlantis theme park. He pushed the refurl button, and the main sail withdrew into the mast and the genoa sail coiled around the forestay. The sailboat, now driven by diesel power rather than wind, cut through the calm water like scissors through dark satin.
He maneuvered his sloop toward the dock slips filled with a variety of crafts, from small skiffs to large cabin cruisers. Beyond the seawall was a street lined with waterfront shops, restaurants, and the large warehouse of the Nassau straw market.
Unsure where to pull in and mentally drained, Christian cut the engine and allowed his sloop to drift alongside a weathered trawler. Aboard were three Bahamian men, two young black men swabbing its deck, and a bearded old man who sat on a crate and mended a net.
"Could you help me?" Christian pleaded, his voice cracking with stress.
"Grab da boat," said the old man, rising from the crate. The young men dropped their mops and seized the sailboat's side railings to keep the boats from bumping. "What's the matter, mister?"