Monday, October 28, 2013

Review of Valerie Martin's The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

I've read and enjoyed Valerie Martin's novels Italian Fever and Mary Reilly.   I find she has a unique and sensitive way of approaching her subjects.  I knew I wanted to read this novel as soon as I heard the title; I have always been intrigued by the mystery of the Mary Celeste. Martin has done a masterful job in telling her own version of this many faceted story.

The book has several main characters, but all are connected by the ship, found drifting, empty of any living souls. Martin approaches the subject matter with respect. Martin uses the actual names of the captain and his family on the ship, and an actual story written by Arthur C Doyle, to expand and create an aura of mystery and intrigue.  Injecting Doyle into the story allows for an expansion into a plot involving the spiritualist movement of that flourished from the mid 1800's through the 1920's.

In this setting, Martin masterfully weaves an intriguing plot with fascinating characters who don't quite say what they are really thinking, which is fine, since Martin let's us know exactly what is going on, as far as their thoughts. The books spans decades, and we see one character in particular grow and change the most. I love a book like this, that takes a  mix of real characters and imagined ones, and has them interact and say things to each other that are totally believable and advance the plot.

Violet Petra is a medium of extraordinary powers. She is sought out by many, but her own life is shrouded in mystery. Her revelations to a journalist, and to the creator of Sherlock Holmes become turning points in her life.  You will want to know Violet, why she knows what she does, and how she became the fascinating woman she is.  Martin's way with a story is charming and complicated, like a beautiful and inscrutable woman. This is an excellent novel, fun to read, and a page turner.

5 stars

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