Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, by Valerie Martin

Martin weaves several story strands into this well written novel, which are all tied to the real life unsolved disappearance of the crew and passengers of the brig Mary Celeste, found abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean in November 1872. The novel begins with another Briggs family tragedy, the death of Sallie Briggs’ aunt, Maria Gibbs, who drowned in 1859 with her husband off Cape Fear. Another plot line concerns Arthur Conan Doyle and his real life story “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement” which was published in the Cornhill Magazine in 1884 and is based on the unknown fate of the crew of the Mary Celeste. There is also a section about a spiritualist medium, Violet Petra, and her friendship with Phoebe Grant, an independent journalist. Doyle was actually very interested in spiritualism and mediums, especially after the death of his wife and son. The last section is the story of the captain of the Mary Celeste, Benjamin Briggs, and his wife Sallie and 2 year old daughter Sophie, and their fateful 1872 voyage. Lastly, Martin characterizes the sea itself, by turns sparkling with sunlight, spangled with stars or filled with deadly waves and wind, ready to snatch away those who venture upon the deep.

RATING: * * * A good read

Reviewed by: kh

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