I had the pleasure of wrapping up reading historical fiction novelist Linda Collison’s latest book, Water Ghosts.
We follow fifteen-year-old James McCafferty as he (unwillingly) is thrown board the Chinese junk ship Good Fortune, for a a summer adventure. The Good Fortune takes on trouble teens, showing them the ropes of old sailing vessels while also trying to get the kids’ collective act together. James doesn’t want to go. He feels like his mom and her boyfriend are getting rid of him. James isn’t a troubled teen in the traditional sense. He can see people’s auras as well as hear and see the ghosts of the dead as they move through out plane of existence. It makes his life… troublesome.
It doesn’t take long before James starts to see and hear weird things on the ship. He does his best to ignore the ghosts — who’s going to believe him, right? But the problem is the ghosts are planning to take over bodies and lives of everyone on the ship. What’s a kid to do?
I’m not usually one for first person books, but thought Linda did a good job about getting into James’ mind. There were only a couple of lines that struck me as something odd for a fifteen-year-old kid to think/say, but James is a bit of an outlier teenager to begin with, so perhaps it is in character. Either way, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
Linda’s research shines through as she describes the Good Fortune and goes into Chinese nautical history and courtiers life of the Ming Dynasty. For the most part, this info is well distributed throughout the book, as the ship councilors tend to love to show off their knowledge to the students whenever they can. My only criticism is that we get a huge amount of backstory from one of the ghosts, Yu, toward the end of the book. The reason for this is sound — Yu wants to switch lives with James and is trying to prepare James for the transformation. But it’s a lot all at once and I felt myself wanting to skip ahead to find out what was going to come of the rest of the crew. Even so, there are some great moments in this section that has a lot of emotional impact.
I give this book a solid four stars and perfect for someone who wants a little history in their supernatural thriller.