Excerpt from The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

by Valerie Martin

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin X
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 320 pages
    Feb 2015, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

From above, on the steamer deck, the shouts of the men escalated, followed abruptly by the ominous, distinctive sound, low and threatening at first, like a rumble from the earth's core, then rising in pitch: the outraged complaint of a wounded tree tearing itself apart. All eyes turned to the mainmast, which was slowly folding over the steamer, the yards cracking like sticks as they came down on the deck below. The captain's wife turned to her husband, but as she did the sky tilted upwards, the deck rose up beneath her feet, the boat she was poised to enter shifted toward the sea, and a flood of water rushed in upon her, knocking her to her knees. She heard her husband call her name, but she couldn't see him, she couldn't see anything. The cold water lifted her up, up, over the bulwarks and then dashed her down with such force that her cloak was torn from her shoulders and her legs flew up before her as if she had been dropped from a tower.

She struggled, holding her breath and pulling her limbs into her body, but two forces were ranged against her - the ever-downward pressure of gravity and the relentless pull of the deep. As she was carried down she had no conscious thoughts, only her visceral mind fought for life. She opened her eyes, looking for light, but there was only cold and soundless darkness.

The storm advanced upon the shipwreck, first caressing it with a delicate spray, a tentative swell, a distant thunderclap. The sailors in the boat, now suspended at an angle, the bow lower than the stern, clung to the manropes for dear life. The captain had been washed into the sea with his wife, and two sailors on the deck were occupied cutting life rings from the taffrail and throwing them over the lee side. Others readied a second boat, their eyes wildly scanning the water's surface for any sign of their lost commander. "He's there," cried the mate, pointing to the chop beneath the broken mast, which grappled the two ships together like a claw. And it was true; the captain had surfaced. He turned round in place, desperate to find his wife. "Do you see her?" he shouted to the men gathered above. A well-aimed preserver hit the water just beyond him, but he ignored it. "Save yourself, man," the mate called back. But the captain, a skillful swimmer, continued treading water, turning in place, straining to see through the rain and the rising sea. "She's there," he cried, striking out toward the bow. He made out something there, something darker than the sea.

The mate hung over the rail, thinking Don't be a fool, but then he too spotted the dark thing floating and the captain approaching it, cutting through the water with powerful strokes. He had reached it, he grasped it, and a cry escaped him as he gathered it into his arms. It was his wife's blue cloak.

Again he treaded, turning in place. She must be near. Another life ring flopped into the sea close to the steamer's hull. In desperation, the captain dove beneath the surface. She must be there, between the two ships. He could see nothing. It was futile, but how was he to give up? He dove again, swimming with frog-like strokes beneath the surface.

On the Early Dawn, the sailors in the boat had succeeded in cutting through the tackle and one cried out "she's going!" as the small craft plummeted into the waves. The captain, rising up to take a breath, felt a blow across his shoulders that knocked the remaining air out of his lungs and pushed him cruelly back down. When he tried to rise again, something solid blocked his way. There was no air left in his lungs; he could feel his eyes bulging with the effort not to breathe. He sensed a light behind him and turned toward it. Then, with what terror and sadness he understood that he was looking down, that it was his wife, her pale face raised to his, her hair streaming like spilled ink over her shoulders, her arms opened wide, rising toward him from the depths, coming to meet him, to take him with her, having preceded him, only moments before, entirely out of this life.

Excerpted from The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin. Copyright © 2014 by Valerie Martin. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Wolf Season
    by Helen Benedict
    Rin Drummond's nicknames include "Pit Bull" and "Dragon." She's a tough-as-nails Iraq War ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Chalk Man
    by C. J. Tudor

    Relentlessly compelling psychological suspense. The must-read thriller debut of 2018.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.