Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

A captivating, atmospheric return to historical fiction that is every bit as convincing and engrossing as Martin's landmark Mary Reilly.

In 1872 the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain. Her cargo was intact and there was no sign of struggle, but the crew was gone. They were never found.

This maritime mystery lies at the center of an intricate narrative branching through the highest levels of late-nineteenth-century literary society. While on a voyage to Africa, a rather hard-up and unproven young writer named Arthur Conan Doyle hears of the Mary Celeste and decides to write an outlandish short story about what took place. This story causes quite a sensation back in the United States, particularly between sought-after Philadelphia spiritualist medium Violet Petra and a rational-minded journalist named Phoebe Grant, who is seeking to expose Petra as a fraud. Then there is the family of the Mary Celeste's captain, a family linked to the sea for generations and marked repeatedly by tragedy. Each member of this ensemble cast holds a critical piece to the puzzle of the Mary Celeste.

These three elements—a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor—converge in unexpected ways, in diaries, in letters, in safe harbors and rough seas. In a haunted, death-obsessed age, a ghost ship appearing in the mist is by turns a provocative mystery, an inspiration to creativity, and a tragic story of the disappearance of a family and of a bond between husband and wife that, for one moment, transcends the impenetrable barrier of death.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: January 28th 2014 by Nan A. Talese 
(my copy provided by Edelweiss for a honest review)

I love a good mystery, I love a good ghost story and this book has both.  Beginning with the very first chapter I was drawn right in, finishing this book in a matter of days. There are so many layers to this story and I liked how they were all woven together.

This book starts with an action packed first chapter and then evens out for the rest of the book.  There is a lot going on in this book, however the way the chapters are laid out, with appropriate titles (with year) it isn't hard to follow.  At times I wondered what Arthur Conan Doyle had to do with this story, but the writing style kept me going and I was soon to get the connection.

Does did book answer the question of what happened to/on the Mary Celeste, well no it doesn't but it is a wonderful 'it could have happened this way'.  My first time reading Valerie Martin and I will be on the look out for more by her.


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