I love reading fiction set in places that I know really well. There's both the thrill of recognising the place written about, and the odd sensation that you, yourself, are living in a fictional world bounded by the walls of reality. This was very much the sensation I had when reading Rebecca Stott's Ghostwalk. Set both in modern day and a ghostly version of 17th century Cambridge Ghostwalk follows the rise to prominence of Isaac Newton, one of Cambridge's most famous 17th century residents.

Despite his obvious talents Newton must have seemed an unlikely candidate for the coveted Lucasian Professor of Mathematics post, but then rivals start to die....Meanwhile, in modern-day Cambridge, historian Elizabeth Vogelsang dies in mysterious circumstances while researching Newton's links to a chain of alchemists across Europe, leaving Lydia Brooke to try to link events from the past into the present.

Much of this book is a fascinating read - especially if you know Cambridge well. Stourbridge Fair is lovingly brought to life (I'd never realised before that the little roads leading off Newmarket Road - Mercers' Row, Garlic Row etc. were all named after what was sold there during the Fair), neither did I realise that at one time Stourbridge Fair was the largest in Europe, or that it was the model for Bunyan's Vanity Fair. All interesting stuff. The Newtonian ghosts are also well presented, giving the novel a distinctive atmosphere.

However as the book progresses the plot gets rapidly sillier. Events clearly moulded on real life (the anti-vivisection movement, for example) are re-realised in the most peculiar (and unbelievable) way. And although the basic ghost story is interesting, and even oddly believable, the vengeful ghost who's out to frame Sir Isaac three hundred years after his own death is incredibly silly.

So great atmosphere, 100% for historical setting, but basic plot is as daft as a brush, and the hero/anti-hero is incredibly irritating. Glad I read it for its Cambridge connections, but wouldn't be in any great hurry to re-read.


Popular Posts