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.
About the Author
Valerie Martin is the author of nine previous novels, including Trespass, Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, Mary Reilly, and the 2003 Orange Prize-winning Property, as well as three collections of short fiction and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi titled Salvation.
Praise for The Ghost of the Mary Celeste…
“A sly and masterly historical novel, written with intelligence and flair.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A wonderfully ingenious novel, compelling, convincing, and exciting.” —John Banville
“Powerful. . . . Superb. . . . [Martin] slips into the nineteenth century with the ease of a time traveler.” —The Boston Globe
“Fact and fiction meld so neatly that it seems as if every character is drawn from real life. . . . The novel—unlike the Mary Celeste—sails home with flying colors.” —The Seattle Times
“A masterpiece of fine detail and intense reimagining. . . . Martin evokes a world suspended between faith and reason, in which ‘the other side’ is quite real—and always beckoning.” —The Guardian (London)
“Based on reality, this artful tale of ghost ships, mystery writers and seances is dripping with atmosphere.” —The Times (London)
“Starkly beautiful. . . . Emotionally rewarding. . . . Circl[es] that idea of a loss that can’t be explained or even understood, a grief that swallows the self as surely as the sea swallows whole ships.” —The A.V. Club
“Brilliantly done—fluently written, vividly imagined, really moving and genuinely, chillingly spooky.” —Daily Mail
“Superb. . . . A tour de force. . . . A beautiful, affecting literary tapestry. . . . An exquisite and intricately layered ghost story.” —Shelf Awareness
“Truly fascinating. . . . The seemingly disparate plotlines are skillfully woven together to create a novel that is well crafted, intriguing, and suspenseful, perhaps as a homage to Sir Conan Doyle himself. Martin’s seafaring story contains history, suspense, and heartbreak in equal measures as it slowly builds to an enigmatic conclusion. Highly recommended for all readers who appreciate quality historical fiction.” —Library Journal (starred)
“Melancholic and moving.” —Publishers Weekly
“A complex, imaginative version of historical fiction. . . . Martin has wound the disparate threads of her novel into a haunting personal drama.” —Kirkus Reviews
“First-rate. . . . Haunting.” —Booklist