Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Martin (Property) uses one of the most baffling maritime mysteries of all time as the starting point for a complex exploration of several different characters, including Arthur Conan Doyle. The melancholic and moving prologue, set in 1859, foreshadows the disaster that befalls a ship named Early Dawn. In 1872, the brig Mary Celeste, en route from New York to Genoa, is found floating at sea, no one aboard, and no real clues as to what happened to its crew of seven, including the captain, Benjamin Briggs; his wife; and his daughter. A decade later, Doyle, who has not yet created Sherlock Holmes, writes a fictional account of the ship's fate, in which a lunatic passenger is responsible for a massacre of the others onboard. 'J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement' elicits strong reactions from those who knew the Briggs family. Martin is less concerned with exploring theories about what actually happened than in the repercussions of the baffling disappearances, in a manner that will remind some of the Australian writer Joan Lindsay." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
VALERIE MARTIN is the author of nine novels, including Trespass, Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, Mary Reilly, and the 2003 Orange Prize-winning Property and of three collections of short fiction.