The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, Valerie Martin, Nan A Talese, 2014, 258 pp
I did not really like this book until I got to the end but it was not because the author won me over. It just finally all made sense. Even then, because I felt a key factor was left unresolved, I had a similar reaction to earlier points in the story. I would just be settling in with a group of characters and a story line when it would switch to another place with other characters in a different time.
The other problem I had was the mash up of historical novel, ghost story, mystery, and an overview of spiritualism in the 19th century. Not that there couldn't be spiritualists or ghosts in a historical tale. My trouble was with the structure. As a reader I was constantly foiled by the way the author put her story together.
The Mary Celeste was a merchant vessel found sailing without a crew. Arthur Conan Doyle, near the beginning of his writing career, writes a story about the ship based on very few facts but filled with plenty of imagination. A medium named Violet Petra, a mysterious person in her own right, after much antagonism toward the writer, agrees to become a subject of study for the newly formed British Society of Psychical Research, of which Doyle is a member.
Plenty of readers raved about this book both on various book sites and in the reading group who got me to read it. If it sounds good to you, I wouldn't want to discourage you, especially because I read it ridiculously fast while on my road trip to see Ann Patchett (stay tuned for my next post). The most intriguing aspect of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste was learning about the life of an actual psychic and the exploitation she had to endure in order to practice her skill.
(The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)