Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #45 Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott
Ghostwalk is like turning on the TV and flipping back and forth between a soap opera, a Hercule Periot mystery on AMC, a documentary on Newton on the History Channel and one of those haunted house specials on the Travel Channel. It attempts to be too many stories at once – a love story, a thriller, analytical history and a ghost story. If I had been the editor, I would’ve cut 3/4ths of the book and told Stott to stick to the history, which is the book’s one redeeming quality.
A Cambridge historian, writing a biography of Newton’s life at Cambridge, is found dead in the river. Her son, a noted brain scientist, enlists the help of his former mistress, Lydia, to live in his mother’s house and finish her biography. Soon the story gets overrun with violent animal rights activist, ghosts of dead alchemists and the so predictable reconciliation of Lydia and her former lover. As Lydia pieces together the notes on the Newton biography, she happens upon some strange deaths – several Cambridgian academics met their end by plummeting down some stairs while Newton was a student there. Coincidentally, these deaths managed to move Newton further up the academic totem pole at Cambridge.
There’s a conspiracy in the whole mess about the government partnering with the brain scientist to create violent incidents that appear to the work of the animal rights activists. There are several red herrings Stott throws in: Lydia makes mention of the scientist’s (I really can’t be bothered to look up his name, he was such a absolute wanker in the book I can’t imagine how he managed to bag a wife AND a mistress) work with brain chemistry and I wish she would’ve stayed on that track as an excuse for the ghost that Lydia keeps seeing because that part of the story became the most laughable.
In the end, Stott would’ve been well advised to stick to and elaborate on the Newton aspects of the story. The strange deaths really did happen in Cambridge and Newton really did benefit from them. It’s one of those times when the truth really is stranger and more interesting than fiction.