This is what the New York Times calls an “intellectual thriller.” It’s a complicated story of modern murder and 17th century mysteries, and the modern murderer may or may not be a 17th century ghost who may or may not be Isaac Newton. Got that? It’s very cool, but also kind of confusing. You have to suspend your disbelief, which in this case I had no trouble doing, so that’s good.
I can’t really do justice to the complicated plot. At the heart of the novel is a scholar named Elizabeth Vogelsang whose life’s work is a biography of Newton. When Elizabeth is found dead with the last chapter of her manuscript missing, another scholar named Lydia Brooke is hired to finish it. Lydia uncovers all sorts of labyrinthine conspiracies, both ancient and modern, and gets tangled up with ghosts, psychics, animal rights activists, and old lovers, all the while trying to figure out whether Newton had anything to do with a string of mysterious murders in Cambridge in the 1600’s, and if so, what these murders had to do with Elizabeth’s death.
I can’t say that everything hung together perfectly at the end. Or else I am just too dense to have picked up every detail. I’m not really sure I understand why Elizabeth died, or who, if anyone, was responsible for her death, but I kind of don’t care. I was vastly entertained along the way, so much so that I actually spread the reading of this book out over two weeks so that I could enjoy it for that much longer.
Here is a link to the Time review. It’s really better than anything I could say.
(Book 34, 2008)