Ballantine Books (2007)
Paperback, 368 pages
history as winding as a maze,
and influential yet, from vanished days
that echo in the present, lingers still
like ripples in a river, work their will
in suppleness of sculpture, stone eyes gaze;
the symphonies of water, sound’s sweet haze
seduce a genius time could never kill.
I love reading the atmospheric stories of Carol Goodman, a writer who has a vast knowledge in classical subjects like Latin, mythology, fairy tales, and plants. The Ghost Orchid takes place at Bosco, a large estate dedicated to encouraging young artists and writers by offering them a beautiful place to work undisturbed for long periods of time.
The large property is filled with founder Aurora Latham’s abundant collection of statues, now in ruins, along with an extensive water system that fed the multitude of fountains. The interesting thing about this system is that the water was pumped uphill and thus was in constant need of repair.
Ellis Brooks is the reluctant daughter of a self-proclaimed psychic and medium. However, she finds herself writing a story about a medium who was a focal part of Aurora’s tragic past, one that involved the kidnapping of her one remaining child after the others had died. Ellis is joined at Bosco by a somewhat pretentious group that included a virulent book critic, a one book wonder, a poet, and a gardener who is trying to persuade a conservancy group to restore the seriously neglected gardens.
It is soon apparent to all that something strange is going on. As the story moves from past to present, the truth of the Latham family begins to uncover events that are far more sinister than a painful family tragedy. A series of accidents leads the group to believe that the young innocents are trying to communicate with them, with possible deadly results.
I really liked this story. Goodman’s writing style is so beautiful and her imagery is breathtaking. Water is symbolic for life. At Bosco it pumps the wrong way and is constantly breaking down which makes it a splendid representation of Aurora’s failed motherhood. Goodman didn’t write this ghost story in the same, often tiresome way of so many authors where one person sees and experiences strange occurrences while others disbelieve. Here we see an entire group haunted and coming to independent conclusions. It made the story richer and easier to suspend reality.
There are a couple more Goodmans in my pile. She has not disappointed me yet.