GHOST SHIP: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew
On December 4, 1872, a small merchant ship, the Mary Celeste , was discovered floating without a crew. Members of another vessel, the Dei Gratia , boarded her and saw no trace of struggle, no serious weather damage or any other trouble that would have prompted sailors to abandon ship. Hicks (Raising the Hunley) is a master of cliffhanging phrases, and he hooks readers with warnings of the ship's bad luck and poor timing. His chronicle, rigorously researched and written with spare, precise clarity, takes a while to gather emotional momentum and present its characters. He generates excitement with the introduction of a colorful villain, queen's proctor Frederick Solly Flood. Convinced the Dei Gratia crew members who brought the Mary Celeste into port were guilty of foul play, Flood indulged in what Hicks calls "a full-fledged witch-hunt." He tautly documents Flood's hysteria, along with his rage upon learning red marks on the ship's floor weren't the bloodstains he'd hoped for. The Dei Gratia crew emerged after a salvation hearing with tarnished reputations, and the Mary Celeste 's mystery remained unsolved. With Flood's disappearance from the story, the passionate sweep of the saga diminishes, and Hicks explores so many theories readers are cast adrift on a sea of speculation. Still, the haunting image of a cursed ship lingers, and Hicks succeeds in making the Mary Celeste a character as human as any of the sailors and reporters who spent their lives struggling to make sense of her puzzling, often painful history. B&w photos. (On sale June 1)
Forecast: Bestselling author Clive Cussler, who founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency, discovered the wrecked Mary Celeste in 2001. He's contributed a blurb to Hicks's book, and having his name attached to the work should bump sales.