The Ghost Orchid
This suspenseful novel is set at an artists’ colony in Saratoga in upstate New York. The action alternates between the 1890s, when a young medium was brought to Bosco to help a grieving mother, Aurora Latham, make contact with her three young children who have died of diphtheria, and the present, when Ellis Brooks has been granted a stay at Bosco to work on her novel about these very events. In fact, almost all of the present-day inhabitants of Bosco are working on projects connected with the estate: one is writing a biography of Aurora, another is investigating the extensive estate gardens with an eye to their restoration, and a third is captivated by the system of fountains and statues in the gardens, in which he finds inspiration for his poetry. But slowly the hold that Bosco and its earlier inhabitants have over those in the present becomes more menacing. What really happened all those years ago? Did the medium kidnap the one remaining child in the family?
Goodman has successfully intertwined the two periods and their events, such that at times the reader is so immersed that they commingle. Period details are convincing, particularly those connected with mediums and séances. Elements of Indian history and lore play a critical role in the events. The local environs, from the Adirondacks, with the logging that has made the Latham family fortune, to the Sacandaga River (now Reservoir), play key roles in the plot. For this reader, who lives in upstate New York, it is hard not to identify Bosco with Yaddo, a Saratoga estate that is now an artists’ colony.
Readers who are looking to lose themselves in a novel full of puzzles and surprises need look no further. Highly recommended.