Book Review: The Ghost Ship By Kate Mosse

17th century Europe wasn’t the best place for an independent, unconventional woman. It was even more problematic if she had a love of the sea, and a burning desire to sail in her own ship. Louise Reydon-Joubert, the central character of The Ghost Ship, faces these problems, and more. She is haunted by her family’s past, and troubled by the issue of how to spend – and defend – a large inheritance. At the same time she is drawn into an illicit love affair…

Set in France, Amsterdam and the Canary Islands, the novel follows the fortunes of Louise and of Gilles Barenton, a young wine merchant. The times are turbulent, and so is Louise’s life, and she soon finds herself at the mercy of forces she cannot control.

The sea is an appropriate metaphor here. Much of the novel takes place on board ship, where murder, storms and pirates mirror Louise’s inner torments. So perhaps it is no surprise that she should hatch an audacious plan to counter the growing slave trade that is enriching ship-owners but terrorising their crews.

The Ghost Ship is the third is a series, but can be read as a standalone story. This was a period of history that I knew little about, but I was drawn in right from the first page. The book is full of lovely rich descriptions, so that it is easy to visualise yourself in 17th century Paris or Amsterdam, or being tossed about on the high seas.

Although it is partly based on stories of two female pirates of the time, the preface acknowledges that the main premise of the novel is unlikely. It certainly seems fanciful but, in the hands of this author, it is skilfully handled. You can find yourself believing that events might have unfolded in just such a way.

This is a book that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. If you enjoy a page-turning adventure full of historical detail you will enjoy The Ghost Ship.

The Ghost Ship, Kate Mosse, Mantle, July 2023, 9781509806911

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