Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott

PLOT Cameron Brown, prominent neuroscientist, finds his historian-mother, Elizabeth Vogelsang, dead in the river, a prism clutched in her fist. He asks Lydia Brooke, his former lover who was also Elizabeth's friend, to return to Cambridge and complete the missing last chapter of the book his mother was writing about Sir Isaac Newton, Trinity College and alchemy. Lydia moves into Vogelsang's studio and of course, in addition to rekindling her affair with Cameron, strange things begin to happen. Papers disappear or blow away when there is no breeze. And then there are the odd lights and shadows, the strange man in red, murders and mysteries, both past and present, a violent animal rights group, and a blurring of the 17th century with the 21st. Lydia, pursuing the truth behind the 17th century deaths, soon finds herself haunted and pursued herself.
COMMENT Ghostwalk could be called creepingly eerie, or eerily creeping (toward its end). It's full of historical detail about 17th century Cambridge, alchemists and Isaac Newton. Stott's style borders on essay-writing in some chapters dealing with Vogelsang's research while she's almost poetic in others. Written from the first person (Lydia) to a second person (Cameron), Ghostwalk's use of "you" was disconcerting and a bit confusing at first. Imagery, delivered in snapshot sentences, is definitely effective in creating the ominous mood.
I sensed a supernatural threat from the beginning and was surprised by the plot addition of the real-time threat posed by NABED, the animal rights group. But this really is a ghost story with one century bleeding into the other.
Sometimes Stott's erudition might be a barrier to digesting Ghostwalk . If you aren't familiar with Mondrian, her reference to the painter will not create the image she intended. To explain the entanglement of past and present, she delves into quantum mechanics - which is fascinating, but not light reading.
Overall, I enjoyed Ghostwalk, but I am really looking forward to my next book by Dean Koontz.


Framed said...

I enjoyed reading your review. I saw this book in my book-club catalog and wanted to know a little more about it. Sounds just right for this challenge. I'll keep it in mind for next year.

Vidalia said...

Glad the review was helpful! ANd thanks for the comment.

Eva said...

I giggled at the first sentence in your comments. I'm still a bit iffy on this one; I can't decide if it's right up my alley, or if I'd get bored with it two-thirds of the way through!

Court said...

I've never heard of this book, but your review makes it sound quite interesting. Great review!