Parnassus Book Reviews
"Ghost Sea" by Ferenc
A Review by Mary Guss
November 13, 2007
Ketchikan, Alaska - You can't
miss with this book -- it has a compelling mixture of mystery,
Native culture and sailing adventure going for it, with romance
and characters thrown in. The Native culture that figures prominently
in the story is the Kwakiutl Nation of Canada. When I put down
"Ghost Sea" I headed immediatly to Wickipedia, histories
and mythologies of the Kwakiutl and anthologies of Native culture
to see if what I had just finished reading could really be true.
It was. Fact is every bit as wonderful as fiction here. I learned
about the Kwakiutls' rich and fascinating culture and mythology
(though at the time the story takes place it is in conflict with
the government busily trying to put a stop to the expressions
of that culture -- particularly the potlatches). For that eye-opening
education alone the book is well worth the reading.
But there is much more. The main character identifies himself
on business cards as ""Captain S.V. Dugger.The ketch
Terrence Jordan. Denman Street Docks. Coastal transport. Anything.
Anywhere" -- sort of a latter-day Palladin. He sails out
of Vancouver, BC, and the time is the early 1920's. Things are
still rather wild on the British Columbia coast and, being on
a small sailing vessel, Dugger and his steady companion Nello
are very close to that wildness. Dugger is a person with a past;
one who relates far better to those on the margins of society
or entirely beyond it -- and aren't those are the most interesting
characters to read about anyway?
In "Ghost Sea" Dugger is hired by her husband to go
in pursuit of Katherine Hay ("Kate"). Kate has been
kidnapped from her husband''s yacht by a Kwakiutl warrior, who
also took the sacred masks which Hay had been collecting from
the Natives. The chase is filled with detailed descriptions of
the sailing, the treacherous waters through which the Terrence
Jordan sails (Mate has obviously done his homework on this as
well) and the treacherous people encountered along the way. The
story is told in the first person by Dugger, and is interspersed
with diary entries from Kate -- so you understand the abduction
and chase from two very different perspectives.
Much in the story -- both the people and the action -- is not
what it first seems (you may find yourself flipping back to earlier
pages repeatedly, as I did, as more is revealed). Mate writes
in spare almost poetic language, often with just a passing comment
to alert you to the way things really are or to what is really
happening. You will want to read quickly, to see how various
perils turn out -- but it is wise to pay attention to the details.
You will be rewarded with a very satisfactory conclusion.
This book stands alone as a grand yarn. But the notes on the
book jacket indicate that the author is off sailing in the South
Pacific, gathering material for the next book to feature Dugger
and Nello. "Ghost Sea" was published in 2006; hopefully
it will not be a long wait for Mate's next novel.
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