cover image GHOST SHIP


Dietlof Reiche, , trans. from the German by John Brownjohn. . Scholastic, $16.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-439-59704-3

Those who enjoyed Reiche's humorous Golden Hamster Saga will find he makes a dramatic departure with this novel set in an oceanside town. Part high seas adventure, part mystery, the story begins with a flashback scene of a New England woodcarver in 1772, crafting a figurehead for a captain who has just purchased a ship called the Storm Goddess . The way in which this craftsman fashions the carving contributes prominently to the plot, as the opening chapter hints. The next chapter flashes forward to the present, as 12-year-old Vicki helps out in her father's restaurant—where the Storm Goddess 's figurehead now decorates the wall. How these two tales join makes for some page-turning reading: the town's shady mayor is a descendent of that ship's captain, Vicki's father is related to the ship's quartermaster—whose journal winds up in Vicki's hands, and who refers to some "ill-gotten" gold. Vicki's obsession with the figurehead leads to her discovery of a crucial clue tucked inside it, and odd events result. The Storm Goddess itself winds up beached outside the restaurant, strange voices seem to emanate from the ship, and the whereabouts of 1500 doubloons come into question. Readers will root for this underdog heroine and Peter, the vacationing boy she befriends, as they set out to solve the mystery and put the ghostly crew to rest. Even if Vicki's other relationships (with her grandmother, father and sister) are sketchy, her friendship with Peter will carry fans of mysteries and pirate lore along. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)