12
Oct
12

CBR4 #37: Dark Echo by F. G. Cottam

I love ghost stories. LOVE them. The problem is that I insist ghosts have a purpose–I don’t like when an angry spirit shows up somewhere and is just evil for no reason. I like ghosts to have back-story. I want them to have history. And in a ghost story, I want the characters to find that history. I want to uncover it as they do–I want to feel like I too am racing to try and put the pieces together before it’s too late. Dark Echo was an excellent example of everything that I want in a ghost story.

Martin Stannard is a disappointment to his father, titan of industry Magnus. Martin had a talent for boxing, but wasn’t a successful boxer. He tried to enter the priesthood, but couldn’t stick with it. He is a nice enough guy, and successful in his own way, but his father has never been quite satisfied. Therefore, it’s rather a shock to Martin when his father tells him that he is going to purchase and restore an antique sailboat, which the two of them will then sail across the Atlantic to the US. The trouble is that the boat gives Martin very bad vibes. Its history is murky and full of bad luck and tragic death. And its first owner, Harry Spaulding–an American playboy who was an infamous commando during WWI–is cloaked in vaguely unpleasant mystery. Martin’s girlfriend Suzanne takes time away from her research into Irish hero Michael Collins to do some digging into the Dark Echo and Harry Spaulding. What she finds makes her wonder if she will ever see Martin again.

This is the first ghost story I’ve read in a while that I’ve found genuinely spooky. The writing was tight, and though it got a teensy bit bogged down in the middle, the last third rocketed along at an excellent pace. Suzanne was a wonderful heroine–using her talents in research to figure out what was going on and put all the pieces together. She was not a victim, but an active heroine in the story. Martin and his father were also likable characters with reasonable motivations. And the ghosts…well they’re pretty great too, in their own ways.

I’d absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well thought out ghost story, or just a great story. I tore through it as fast as I could because I couldn’t wait to find out what was going on and what Martin and Suzanne were going to do about it.

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