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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