Book Review: The Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick

I like to share my book reviews – as hopefully you’ve noticed – but because of this I sometimes get people saying ‘Oh, I’ve written a book’ or ‘My friend has written a book, would you like to read it?’ This makes me nervous, as no one wants to have their baby criticised (which reminds me of Emily’s excellent guest post some years ago!) So I’d heard about The Ghost Manuscript from a mutual friend of the author but had never bought it. Then – at the mutual friend’s 50th – I met Kris Frieswick in person, and really enjoyed her company (although I’m not sure either of us will drink an espresso martini ever again?!) and despite the alcohol imbibed, I managed to buy her book from Amazon from the hotel bar! If you need *slightly* more information than a mutual love of champagne, cocktails and fast cars between me and the author – here’s the blurb:

“Rare-book authenticator Carys Jones wanted nothing more than to be left alone to pursue her obsession with ancient manuscripts. But when her biggest client is committed to an asylum, he gives Carys an offer she cannot refuse. In exchange for his entire library of priceless Dark Age manuscripts, she must track the clues hidden in a previously unknown journal, clues that lead to a tomb that could rewrite the history of Western civilization. 
But there are people who would do anything to stop her from finding what she seeks – for reasons both noble and evil. The hunt takes her to places she never thought she’d go, physically and emotionally: first to Wales, her estranged father’s homeland, then to bed with Dafydd, a mysterious Welshman who agrees to help her with the search, and, finally, deep inside her own psyche when the monk who wrote the journal 1,500 years ago appears and assists her in her search.”

Now I need to hold my hands up and say ghosts and fantasy books of 1,500 year old monks appearing is not my usual bag – but I thought I’d give it a go – and I’m so glad I did. I really enjoyed the whole book (and have had to Google things whilst reading it to see what was fact and what was fiction!)

The book starts on the East coast of the US where Carys works for an auction house specialising in rare books. Her boss is horrible, she has a client she respects who offers her an amazing deal to investigate an unknown journal, and she has a brilliant kick ass lawyer best friend watching her back. It soon becomes evident that there is more to this unknown journal than meets the eye – and not just her client knows this.

Carys then ends up over in Wales – and more specifically Mumbles just outside Swansea. In a strange twist of fate, I took my son (who also got to know Kris at the aforementioned 50th!) to visit Swansea Uni and then we went for coffee and cake in Mumbles whilst I was part way through the book! It was really interesting to see all of the locations from the book in real life – albeit on a very grey and rainy day #Wales. And in a further twist, the building at Swansea that my son would learn Classics in, is called the Taliesin building – and Taliesin is an ancient Welsh poet mentioned in ‘The Ghost Manuscript’ (the world is a very small place sometimes!)

Back to the book!

Whilst in Wales, Carys enlists the help of some locals – telling them elements of her story without disclosing exactly what is going on. In the meantime, back in Boston, her best friend, the client and the client’s housekeeper are doing their bit too. The trail then takes Carys back across the Atlantic again.

The book twists and turns – it’s part Indiana Jones type quest, part fantasy, part romantic comedy, part family drama, part murder mystery – with lots of other things thrown in too! I don’t want to walk you – or take you out on a boat – through the story, as you need to see how it develops yourself.

I have to say I didn’t see the ending coming at all – which was great – not in the least predictable, which I loved.

All in all – I’m glad I took a chance on a different genre – and look forward to seeing what Kris writes next!