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Library Journal Review
Martin's (The Confessions of Edward Day) evocative historical novel covers events leading up to, flowing past, and swirling around the enduring mystery of the "ghost ship" Mary Celeste, which was found adrift without a crew in 1872 off the Azores. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story positing about the fate of the ship, the publication of which led to a confrontation between a medium and a reporter. Martin's work explores the world of spiritualism and standards of truth and fiction. Narrator Susie Berneis navigates safely through the many characters and points of view. -VERDICT A great choice for historical fiction collections. ["Martin's seafaring story contains history, suspense, and heartbreak in equal measure as it slowly builds to an enigmatic conclusion. Highly recommended for all readers who appreciate quality historical fiction," read the starred review of the Nan A. Talese: Doubleday hc, LJ 10/15/13.]-Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Martin's latest novel delves into the lingering questions surrounding the Mary Celeste, an American brig found drifting, intact but abandoned, in the open Atlantic in 1872. Eschewing a traditional linear narrative for an unconventional yet far more effective structure, Martin creates what seem at first to be loosely connected vignettes. Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote a sensationalist tale about the ship's fate in his youth, appears at several different points in his life, and a journalist crosses paths several times with an enigmatic medium she hopes to debunk. It progressively becomes clear that their stories link in multiple ways with the Briggs family of Marion, Massachusetts, many of whom died at sea. Characterization is first-rate, as is the historical sensibility. Subtle undercurrents of impending tragedy create a disquieting effect throughout, a fitting atmosphere for a work about a society preoccupied with making contact with deceased loved ones. The scenes of maritime disasters are realistically terrifying. A haunting, if sometimes slowly paced, speculative look at a long-unsolved maritime mystery and the unsettling relationships between writers and their subjects.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Martin (The Confessions of Edward Day, 2009, etc.) offers a complex, imaginative version of historical fiction, playing literary hide-and-seek with the unsolved mystery surrounding an American cargo vessel found abandoned in the Azores in 1872. Martin follows a linear chronology. In 1860, Benjamin Briggs, who will become the Mary Celeste's captain, courts his cousin Sallie Cobb, somewhat to the chagrin of her younger sister Hannah, a spiritual rebel who drifts into reveries during which she has visions. In 1872, the ship is found seaworthy but abandoned, with no sign of the crew, the captain, or his wife and infant daughter, who accompanied him on the voyage. In 1884, Arthur Conan Doyle, a young doctor and aspiring author, writes a fictional (and racist) solution to the mystery of what happened to the Mary Celeste that is heavily colored by his own less than happy trip to Africa three years earlier. The story, which captures the public's imagination and launches his career, is assumed factual by many but not by Philadelphia medium Violet Petra, who readers will immediately realize is Hannah Cobb, who long ago ran away from home and assumed a new identity. Violet is being dogged by reporter Phoebe Grant, who initially wants to expose Violet as a Spiritualist fraud but finds the young woman more victim than victimizer. On an American tour in 1894, the now famous Conan Doyle meets Petra, and she impresses him with a message from his long-dead father. He invites her to London. She disappears en route but not before giving Phoebe a document that only complicates the mystery of what happened to the Mary Celeste. And really, that mystery is the least compelling element of a novel that sheds unromantic but not unsympathetic light on 19th-century New-Age spirituality and feminism while beaming a less sympathetic focus on brilliant but highly unlikable Conan Doyle. It is Violet, the lost soul, whom readers will not be able to forget. Martin has wound the disparate threads of her novel into a haunting personal drama.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.