Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dark Echo Book Review

Author: F.G. Cottam. Release date: 2010. Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press. ISBN: 9780312544331.
Annotation:  Martin Stannard has always had an estrange relationship with his father, so he is surprised when the elder invites him on a transatlantic voyage aboard a newly acquired vintage yacht called the Dark Echo. This vessel, however, has long been rumored cursed, and as Martin spends more time aboard, he begins to believe there is some merit in the rumors.
Personal thoughts: I can proudly proclaim myself an F.G. Cottam fan after reading his second “ghost story” (the first was The House of Lost Souls, which I highly recommend.) Although I did prefer his first novel to this, Dark Echo is a very interesting story with a lot of history and some truly creepy moments. Definitely for readers who are into plots that are intense but with depth. I would only recommend this title for older teens as there is some violence and gory situations, but nothing too out of hand.
Plot summary: Magnus Stannard, a tenacious businessman, has made his career on unusual moves that have proved successful, resulting in a large fortune and a great deal of power. His only son, Martin, has failed to live up to this shining example of entrepreneurialism, and has always believed his father’s feelings towards him to be those of disappointment. When Magnus acquires a vintage yacht called the Dark Echo he informs Martin, and his business partners, that he is retiring to a life at sea. He invites Martin to take a transatlantic voyage with him from England to New York to begin his new nautical existence. Martin, with the help of his researcher girlfriend Suzanne, begin looking into the history of the yacht. It seems that it was commissioned by a millionaire playboy and World War I veteran, Harry Spalding, in the 1920s. Spalding lived a dashing existence, but was also rumored to dabble in Satanism. The yacht is thought by those familiar with it to be cursed, but Magnus ignores these rumors. As the crew working to restore the boat falls victim to strange accidents, Martin and Suzanne become convinced that the history of the boat will reveal the truth about the dangers they now face.
Review:  This intriguing ghost story is a mixture of historical fact and fiction that makes for an intense, supernatural mystery. The reader comes to know the characters in the novel quite well, and this understanding makes the plot all the more interesting. Martin’s failed attempt at a life in the Church, Suzanne’s professional interest with Michael Collins, and Magnus’ lifelong obsession with the yacht are just some of the subplots that add to the richness of the story. The historical figures placed in the book as well as the various locations in the UK set the tone for some of the creepy happenings. Overall, Cottam weaves an intricate tale that definitely pays off in the end.
Genre: Horror/Historical Fiction
Reading level: Grade 10+

Similar titles: House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam.
Themes:  Yachts/nautical vessels, ghosts, World War I, religion, Satanism/rituals, Michael Collins, United Kingdom, 1920s.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Booklist.  
Series Information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- Did you find this novel scary?

- Do you think it's possible for locations or objects (i.e. ships) to be haunted or cursed?

- Did you learn anything about historical figure, Michael Collins, in this novel? Look into his history and determine if you think his depiction in this novel is accurate.

- Do you think people still practice the occult?

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