Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Ghost Ship by Brian Hicks

✰✰✰½ The mystery of the Mary Celeste and the disappearance of her crew in 1872 is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time. For anyone who has ever wondered what happened aboard the Mary Celeste, Brian Hicks' book is for you.

Over 150 years ago, Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife and daughter along with the crew disappeared without a trace. The derelict brigantine was found days later, by the crew of the Dei Gratia. The seaworthy brigantine with her load intact was brought into Gibraltar amidst rumors of foul play. Although the Dei Gratia crew expected the salvage hearing to proceed quickly and be rewarded handsomely; things did not go as expected. Instead the proceedings were tied up for weeks as they had to deal with the overzealous local attorney general Frederick Solly Flood, who insinuated something more sinister.

Today much of what we know about the Mary Celeste is shrouded in myth. Hollywood has done a great job in leading us astray as well, but author Brian Hicks separates fact from fiction in his treatment of the topic. Hicks investigates all the possibilities including mutiny, foul play, piracy, and insurance fraud. Explore the hoaxes and possible solutions for yourself and decide if the Mary Celeste was cursed from the beginning or simply unlucky.

The Bottom Line: For readers who enjoy true mysteries, Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew doesn't disappoint. Author Brian Hicks lays out the facts and the background story of the ship and her fateful voyage as he helps dispel the myths surrounding of the Mary Celeste. This is one of those nonfiction books that reads life fiction; it has everything including deception, mystery, and suspense. Recommended for anyone with an interest in true stories, mysteries, shipwrecks, and maritime history.

Details: Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew by Brian Hicks. Hardcover published by Ballantine Books in 2004. 304 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-46391-9

Note: The author includes a chapter about a short story written by Arthur Conan Doyle which was loosely based on the Mary Celeste and the disappearance of her crew. The story was called J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement and was very convincing at the time. It was so convincing, in fact, that some of the myths in Conan Doyle's story are still believed as fact today.

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