Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Unrepaired and swollen with rain, the gate in the orchard wall refused to move ..."

I wanted to love Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. It has so many elements that I enjoy in a historically based mystery and the research was thorough. Yet, one simple thing derailed my enjoyment of this book -- the voice and perspective the author chose to use.

Ghostwalk begins with the discovery of a body -- that of a historian, Elizabeth, who was working on a groundbreaking biography of the revered Sir Isaac Newton and his involvement with alchemy and possibly with murder. Her son Cameron discovers her body and also her nearly finished manuscript. He contacts his ex-mistress, Lydia, and tells her that his mother wanted her to finish the book. He offers to hire her as a ghostwriter. Lydia accepts and moves into the small cottage where Elizabeth worked and lived. Almost immediately, strange things begin happening to the manuscript and to Lydia. Her only chance at finishing what she promised to do is to find out what Elizabeth discovered and to pacify the ghosts of the past.

This was an interesting premise and like many recent fictions with historical backgrounds, the past scenes ring true. However, the present in this book seemed less tangible due to the choice of having Lydia as a first person narrator, writing a disjointed account of the matter to the obviously dead Cameron. With phrases such as "we didn't know that then" and "I didn't think anything of it then" sprinkled liberally through the novel, the foreshadowing is very heavy handed and frequent. This was a first novel and I think that I would still read Stott's next book because she had an interesting premise here and because she wouldn't be able to use the same point of view again. Her research was interesting and of course I loved the Cambridge setting.

This was another read for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. I wish I had read more outstanding books for this so far but I'm also saving some of the ones I hope I will love for October. It feels a bit strange to be writing up this review at the end of an eighty-seven degree day full of sunshine and summer smells. I hope the Seattle weather decides to return to provide me with some grey days soon -- preferably with a menacing atmosphere.

Working through a season of ghosts,

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  1. As much as I dislike heavy-handed foreshadowing, I might borrow this from the library. Gothic atmosphere, history, Newton ... sounds like something I'd enjoy. Maybe during the thunder and lightning of a summer storm; that's the only menacing weather Brisbane will produce anytime soon!

  2. CoversGirl - Maybe since I've warned you about it, it will be easier to ignore it. The history is really fascinating.

  3. I've heard of this one, but haven't read it yet. I don't know if I will, now, after reading your review. But I've read The Coral Thief by this author and I really liked it!

  4. Passionatebooklover - I have The Coral Thief on my TBR list and am still looking forward to it!

  5. Don't you hate it when you look forward to reading a book and expect that it will be one you'll love and it doesn't work for you?