The Ghost Orchid

The Ghost Orchid

4.3 35
by Carol Goodman
     
 

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In her enthralling novels of literary suspense, Carol Goodman writes stories that resonate with emotion set in lush landscapes that entice the senses. Now, with The Ghost Orchid, a narrative that seamlessly weaves together the past and the present, Goodman creates her most lyrical and haunting work to date.

For more than one hundred years, creative souls have

Overview

In her enthralling novels of literary suspense, Carol Goodman writes stories that resonate with emotion set in lush landscapes that entice the senses. Now, with The Ghost Orchid, a narrative that seamlessly weaves together the past and the present, Goodman creates her most lyrical and haunting work to date.

For more than one hundred years, creative souls have traveled to Upstate New York to work under the captivating spell of the Bosco estate. Cradled in silence, inspired by the rough beauty of overgrown gardens and crumbling statuary, these chosen few fashion masterworks–and have cemented Bosco’s reputation as a premier artists’ colony. This season, five talented artists-in-residence find themselves drawn to the history of Bosco, from the extensive network of fountains that were once its centerpiece but have long since run dry to the story of its enigmatic founder, Aurora Latham, and the series of tragic events that occurred more than a century ago.

Ellis Brooks, a first-time novelist, has come to Bosco to write a book based on Aurora and the infamous summer of 1893, when wealthy, powerful Milo Latham brought the notorious medium Corinth Blackwell to the estate to help his wife contact three of the couple’s children, lost the winter before in a diphtheria epidemic. But when a séance turned deadly, Corinth and her alleged accomplice, Tom Quinn, disappeared, taking with them the Lathams’ only surviving child.

The more time she spends at Bosco, the more Ellis becomes convinced that there is an even darker, more sinister end to the story. And she’s not alone: biographer Bethesda Graham uncovers stunning revelations about Milo and Corinth; landscape architect David Fox discovers a series of hidden tunnels underneath the gardens; poet Zalman Bronsky hears the long-dry fountain’s waters beckoning him; and novelist Nat Loomis feels something lingering just out of reach.

After a bizarre series of accidents befalls them, the group cannot deny the connections between the long ago and now, the living and the dead . . . as Ellis realizes that the tangled truth may ensnare them all in its cool embrace.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead Languages

“A wonderfully eerie sense of place . . . deeply atmospheric.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Like Donna Tartt’s A Secret History or a good film noir . . . [This book will] keep readers hooked.”
–People (Page-turner of the week)

The Seduction of Water

“Truly a seductive reading experience . . . grabs the reader on the first page and holds on for the entire journey.”
–The Denver Post

“Like the best mysteries, The Seduction of Water offers puzzles and twists galore but still tells a human story.”
–The Boston Globe

The Drowning Tree

“Deftly plotted and certainly intriguing . . . infused with the sinister aura of its setting . . . The Drowning Tree has its twists and shudders.”
–New York Daily News

“[A] captivating literary mystery of secrets old and new.”
–Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
An isolated Victorian mansion in upstate New York is the backdrop for Goodman's latest literary mystery (after The Drowning Tree), which stars a debut novelist and her fellow residents at the artists' retreat Bosco. Ellis Brooks has been accepted to Bosco primarily because her first novel is to be a fictional account of the mansion's mysterious past; while there will be no deaths during her stay, there's spookiness aplenty, as well as several 1893 murders still begging resolution. Goodman's narrative alternates between Ellis's first-person present and 1893. Coincidentally-or not-two of Bosco's other guests are also working on projects related to the mansion. But they turn out to be little more than convenient accessories as Ellis, the daughter of a psychic (and possessor of certain powers of her own), unlocks clue after mystical clue to secrets long buried by the mansion's original owners. As great a player as any is the mansion itself and its creepy (and possibly haunted) gardens. Is this an updated Victorian drawing room mystery or a romance novel/crime fiction-cum-ghost story? Never mind. Enjoy the atmosphere. And enjoy the ride; its twists and turns mesmerize, even if they don't surprise. Agent, Loretta Barrett. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages) returns with another literary mystery, this time introducing a supernatural element. Ellis Brooks is a young novelist who has been awarded a retreat to the Bosco estate, an artists' sanctuary in upstate New York. A daughter of a psychic medium, she has spiritual abilities that are tapped by the ghosts of three young children who died on the estate under mysterious circumstances more than 100 years earlier. The story alternates between the perspectives of Ellis in the present and Corinth, the psychic hired in the 1880s to contact the children's spirits. Fans of Goodman's earlier books will enjoy her familiar Hudson Valley setting and metaphorical use of water (in this case, an elaborate system of garden fountains on the estate). However, some may be put off by the supernatural angle. Recommended for public libraries with a following for Goodman's earlier books. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/05.]-Karen Fauls-Traynor, Sullivan Free Lib., Chittenango, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The ghost of Daphne du Maurier was probably consulted during the writing of Goodman's latest romantic suspenser (The Drowning Tree, 2004, etc.). It's a tale assembled and narrated by novelist Ellis Brooks, who's among the artists invited to the upstate New York Bosco estate, a "sacred wood" of sorts complete with luxuriant gardens, hidden grottos, complex waterworks-and a history of parental grief connected to "the Blackwell Affair," which Ellen is researching. The story dates from 1893, when Aurora, wife of wealthy timber merchant Milo Latham, hired medium Corinth Blackwell to contact the spirits of her three children (victims of a diphtheria epidemic)-only to suffer the kidnapping of her sole surviving child Alice, presumably by the resourceful psychic and her con-man partner and lover. Ellis, herself the daughter of a flower-empowered Wiccan mystic, becomes uncomfortably attuned to the (doubtless vengeful) spirit of the place, and Goodman thus juxtaposes the tale of the Lathams' miseries with Ellis's absorption of their past and relations with her fellow guest artists. These latter include pot-smoking celebrity novelist Nat Loomis, flinty biographer-critic Bethesda Graham, sensitive hunk landscape architect David Fox and distracted poet Zalman Bronsky, whose gnomic sonnets-in-progress hold increasingly ominous clues to the details of the Blackwell affair. A suicidal Indian maiden, several monogrammed teacups and a pair of disastrous seances figure prominently in the heavily furnished and dauntingly complex plot-which Goodman handles with considerable skill. But there are just too many signs and portents, perturbed spirits, guilty secrets and variously illicit relations for even themost moonstruck reader to sort through. More of the same from Goodman: not half bad, not all that good.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345462145
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/10/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
508,360
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I came to Bosco for the quiet.

That’s what it’s famous for.

The silence reigns each day between the hours of nine and five by order of a hundred-year-old decree made by a woman who lies dead beneath the rosebushes—a silence guarded by four hundred acres of wind sifting through white pines with a sound like a mother saying hush. The silence stretches into the still, warm afternoon until it melts into the darkest part of the garden where spiders spin their tunnel-shaped webs in the box-hedge maze. Just before dusk the wind, released from the pines, blows into the dry pipes of the marble fountain, swirls into the grotto, and creeps up the hill, into the gap- ing mouths of the satyrs, caressing the breasts of the sphinxes, snaking up the central fountain allée, and onto the terrace, where it exhales its resin- and copper-tinged breath onto the glasses and crystal decanters laid out on the balustrade.

Even when we come down to drinks on the terrace there’s always a moment, while the ice settles in the silver bowls and we brush the yellow pine needles off the rattan chairs, when it seems the silence will never be broken. When it seems that the silence might continue to accumulate—like the golden pine needles that pad the paths through the box-hedge maze and the crumbling marble steps and choke the mouths of the satyrs and fill the pipes of the fountain— and finally be too deep to disturb.

Then someone laughs and clinks his glass against another’s, and says . . .

“Cheers. Here’s to Aurora Latham and Bosco.”

“Here, here,” we all chime into the evening, sending the echoes of our voices rolling down the terraced lawn like brightly colored croquet balls from some long-ago lawn party.

“God, I’ve never gotten so much work done,” Bethesda Graham says, as if testing the air’s capacity to hold a longer sentence or two.

We all look at her with envy. Or maybe it’s only me, not only because I didn’t get any work done today, but because everything about Bethesda bespeaks confidence, from her slim elegant biographies and barbed critical reviews to her sleek cap of shiny black hair with bangs that just graze her perfectly arched eyebrows—which are arched now at Nat Loomis, as if the two of them were sharing some secret, unspoken joke—and set off her milk-white skin and delicate bone structure. Even Bethesda’s size—she can’t be more than four nine—is intimidating, as if everything superfluous had been refined down to its essential core. Or maybe it’s just that at five nine I loom over her and my hair, unmanageable at the best of times, has been steadily swelling in the moist Bosco air and acquired red highlights from the copper pipes. I feel like an angry Valkyrie next to her.

“Magic,” says Zalman Bronsky, the poet, sipping his Campari and soda. “A dream. Perfection.” He releases his words as if they were birds he’s been cupping in his hands throughout the day.

“I got shit-all done,” complains Nat Loomis, the novelist. The famous novelist. I’d had to stop myself from gasping aloud when I recognized him on my first day at Bosco—and who wouldn’t recognize that profile, the jawline only slightly weaker than his jacket photos suggest, the trademark square glasses, the hazel eyes that morph from blue to green depending (he once said in an interview) on his mood, the tousled hair and sardonic grin. Along with the rest of the world (or at least the world of MFA writing programs and bookish Manhattan), I had read his first novel ten years ago and fallen in love—with it, with its young, tough, but vulnerable protagonist, and with the author himself. And along with the rest of that little world I’d been immersed in these last ten years, I couldn’t help wondering where his second novel was. Surely, though, the fact that he’s here is a favorable sign that it’s only a matter of time before the long-awaited second novel is born out of the incubator of silence that is Bosco.

“It’s too quiet,” Nat says, now taking a sip of the single-malt scotch that the director, Diana Tate, sets out each night in a cut-glass decanter.

David Fox, a landscape architect who I’ve heard is writing a report on the gardens for the Garden Conservancy, holds up a Waterford tumbler of the stuff, the gold liquor catching a last ray of light as the sun impales itself on the tips of the pines at the western edge of the estate, and proposes a toast, “To Aurora Latham’s Sacro Bosco—a sacred wood indeed.”

“Is that what the name means?” asks one of the painters who’ve just joined us on the terrace. “I thought it was a funny name for an artists’ colony—isn’t it some kind of chocolate milk housewives made in the fifties?”

The other artists, who are just now straggling in from their out- lying studios and cabins like laborers returning from the fields, laugh at their cohort’s joke and grouse that the writers, as usual, have taken all the good chairs, leaving them the cold stone balustrade. One can’t help but notice that there’s a class system here at Bosco. The writers, who stay in the mansion, play the role of landed gentry. Nat Loomis and Bethesda Graham somehow manage to make their identical outfits of black jeans and white T-shirts look like some kind of arcane English hunting wardrobe. Even unassuming Zalman Bronsky, in his rumpled linen trousers and yellowed, uncuffed, and untucked dress shirt, looks like the eccentric uncle in a Chekhov play.

“She named it after the Sacro Bosco garden in Bomarzo—near Rome,” I say, my first spoken words of the day. I’m surprised my vocal cords still work, but, after all, my book—my first novel—is set here at Bosco, which is why I know that the estate isn’t named for a bed- time beverage. I address my remarks to David Fox, though, because the other writers, especially Bethesda Graham and Nat Loomis, still scare me.

Just remember, the director told me on the first day, never call Nat Nathaniel, or Bethesda Beth. I smiled at that evidence of vanity on their parts, but then I remembered that I’d been quick enough to modify my own name to Ellis when I published my first story. After all, who would take seriously a writer called Ellie?

“She saw it on one of the trips she and Milo Latham took to Italy,” I add, “and was inspired to create her own version of an Italian Renaissance garden here on the banks of the Hudson.”

We all look south toward where the Hudson should be, but the towering pines obscure the view. Instead we are looking down on crumbling marble terraces and broken statuary—statues of the Muses, whose shoulders are mantled with the gold dust of decaying pine needles and whose faces (at least on the statues who still have their heads) are cloaked in shadow and green moss. The hedges and shrubbery—once clipped and ordered—have overgrown their neat geometry and now sprawl in an untidy thicket across the hill. The fountain allée, with its satyrs and sphinxes who once spouted water from their mouths and breasts, leads to a statue of a horse poised on the edge of the hill as if it were about to leap into the dark, overgrown boxwood maze—Aurora Latham’s giardino segreto—at the bottom of the hill. Somewhere at the center of the maze is a fountain, but the hedges have grown too high to see it now.

“Actually, the garden’s closer in design to the Villa d’Este at Tivoli,” Bethesda Graham murmurs, sipping her mineral water. “The idea of all these fountains and the springs running down the hill into a grotto and then out to the main fountain and from there to the river and finally to the sea . . . Aurora wrote in her Italian journal that she wanted to create a garden that was the wellspring of a fountain like the sacred spring on Mount Parnassus.” Bethesda pronounces Aurora’s name as if she were a contemporary who’d only moments ago quit the terrace. Of course, I remember, she’s writing a biography of Aurora Latham. Bethesda’s the expert here.

“The whole hill is a fountain,” David Fox says. “One might even say the entire estate. Pumps draw the water up from the spring at the bottom of the hill and then pipes funnel the water down the hill though a hundred channels. On a night like this we would have heard the water cascading down the terraces like a thousand voices.”

Zalman Bronsky murmurs something. I lean forward to ask him to repeat himself, but then the words, half heard and still lingering in Bosco’s perfect silence, sound clearly in my head.

“ ‘The eloquence of water fills this hill,’ ” I repeat. “How lovely. It’s iambic pentameter, isn’t it?”

The poet looks startled, but then he smiles and takes out of his jacket a piece of paper that has been folded in quarters and begins to write down the line. When he sees it’s too dark to, he gets up to go inside. The artists have already gone inside for dinner, their manual labors having given them keener appetites.

“What happened to the fountains?” I ask David Fox, but it’s Bethesda who answers.

“The spring dried up,” she says, taking another careful sip from her glass.

“Not a particularly good omen for those who’ve come to drink at the wellspring of the Muses,” Nat says, downing the last of his scotch. “We might as well go inside for dinner.” He looks into his empty glass as if its dryness stood for the dried-up pipes of the fountain. Bethesda takes the glass from him as he gets up and follows him through the French doors into the dining room.

David Fox and I are left alone on the terrace looking down on the overgrown garden.

“So when you finish researching the garden, will it be restored?” I ask.

“If we get funding from the Garden Conservancy,” he says, draining the last drop of scotch from his glass. I get up and he reaches a hand out to take my wineglass. As his hand brushes mine, I feel a tremor—as if the pipes of the old fountain below us had come to life and were about to send forth jets of water, into the last lingering glow of the sunset. The garden wavers and quakes like a reflection in a pool of water, and I see a slim white figure swimming at its center. I force my eyes shut and, ignoring the sweet, spicy smell that has swept over the terrace, count to ten. When I open them, the garden has gone still and I can see that the slim white figure is only a statue standing below the western edge of the terrace and the scent of vanilla has faded from the air.

“You’re right,” I say, “it is prettier as a ruin.”

He laughs. “I agree, but I never said anything of the kind. The Garden Conservancy would have me fired if I did.”

At dinner I sit between Zalman Bronsky and Diana Tate. I’m glad I’m not next to David Fox, because I’m still embarrassed at what happened on the terrace. Of course he hadn’t said that the garden was prettier in ruins. It was only my imagination. Sometimes after a day of writing, after listening to the voices of my characters in my head, I begin to imagine that I can actually hear their voices.

Meet the Author

Carol Goodman is the author of The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, and The Drowning Tree. The Seduction of Water won the 2003 Hammett Prize and her other novels have been nominated for the Dublin/IMPAC Award and the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her fiction has been translated into eight languages. She teaches writing at the New School University in New York City.

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Ghost Orchid 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are drawn to beautifully written literature with an intriguing, intense, web-like plot, romance, and supernatural overtones, this is the book for you! I am an avid reader and enjoy many books, but I have never been so impressed with a book that I felt I needed to write a review about it encouraging others to read it as well, but that is exactly what I am doing now. I started and finished the book yesterday, and I woke up still marveling at the complicated beauty of it this morning. This is truly a book that you can't go wrong with.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
Carol Goodman always has an unparalleled way of transforming a location in a book into a beautifully haunted atmosphere. Her descriptions jump from the page, and every time she sets her novel in a new location I know it's going to be lush, decrepit, gothic, and wonderful. Her location in The Ghost Orchid is no different. Set at the upstate New York sprawling aged and crumbling Bosco Estate, Goodman unites an intriguing cast of characters amid the ivy-covered statues and dry fountains. Novelist Ellis Brooks has hoped her acceptance into Bosco's notorious writing program would allow her the freedom to pursue her novel in peace. But the past pursues her instead, and she soon finds that the residents of Bosco were not brought together by chance. At times a romantic mystery, at times a suspenseful thriller, Goodman deftly weaves between an ages old missing child case, and the present day sleuthing Ellis is forced to undertake into the people and places around her. Always intriguing, I never want to finish a Goodman novel. Though the writing in this, her fourth novel, occasions into the trite and predictable, I was still engrossed by the scene set before me. I had one issue with the end of the novel and a short side-tracked path that Goodman decided to briefly explore, but it was not the focus of the novel so I can set it aside as author-folly. Overall, I still love her novels and find them to be uniquely mysterious and haunting. I haven't read many other authors that can successfully pull off a mystery while still making it literary. In this day of mass-market quick-publications, I delight in the fact that there are authors like Goodman who take suspense to another level.
Annie5000 More than 1 year ago
Of the thousands of books that I have read, an odd few have stayed with me long after most of the words fade. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was a child, The Shadow of the Wind(sold, the moment I opened the book and began the first chapter entitled, The Cemetery of Lost Books), a few others in various genres in between, and recently, Ghost Orchid. It captured me on the first page, drawing me into the spidery weave of the author's prose, wrapping around and filling my head with imagery and lush emotion. A sense of atmosphere survives; of still being in that place the book took me away to when I conjure up a passage of finely drawn description. Beneath the pretty language is an atmospheric ghost story, a love story transcending time, and a finely crafted mystery. It is centered on an artist's retreat called Bosco. A landmark of history and beauty catering to an artistic chosen few, invited to stay at the estate each season. Bosco allows them to live and dream in a somewhat structured regimen encouraging unhindered creativity without worrying about the mundane facets of existence. For over a hundred years, Bosco has inspired wonderful works, a testament to its picturesquely crumbling architecture and overgrown gardens complete with statuary, underground complex of fountains, and a veiled garden maze. Five people have been invited to Bosco this season. Of the five, the story is largely seen through the gaze of Ellie Brooks who plans to write a book on the catalyst of events of a certain historical summer in 1893. Her counterpart narrator in the past is a medium called Corinth Blackwell, invited to Bosco to contact the spirits of the three dead children of the owners, the Lathams. Corinth's tragic story intertwines with the sadness and deaths that occur at Bosco in the twilight of the nineteenth century. Along with Ellie in the present, is Bethesda Graham a biographer, David Fox a landscape architect, Zalman Bronsky a poet, and Nat Loomis a novelist. It seems that all the beauty created, inspired by Bosco, is penance for the secrets that lie underneath. When the current assemblage of five distinct personalities congregating at Bosco begins to research the history and delve into its secrets, a supernatural doorway opens, enveloping their lives as the past converges on the present. Ghost orchids appear in the gardens, their elusive blooms signifying the change in the air, as the spirits awaken and insist that their stories be told. The past events reenact, charging the air with otherworldly danger. This leads to a volatile sequence of events, and ends finally, on a satisfying note. Read Ghost Orchid, and allow it to take you on a beautifully written, haunting journey.
APrincess4Ever More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 2 days!! I loved it even though at first meeting all the characters at once was a little hard to follow! Once it got going though there was no putting it down! Definitely a beach novel during the summer and a cozy book to warm up with during the winter!
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This novel was hard to follow
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Cameron Weirbach More than 1 year ago
Simply not her best. Too much going on....inadequate scene description makes this a bit confusing at times.
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Sassenach More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book as an impulse buy during one of B&N's sales so it has been on my shelf for sometime. I'm sorry I didn't read it sooner. Even though I was able to figure out some of the plot fairly early on, I still found the plot and characters to be captivating. I was also suprised on how often I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading. The Gost Orchid is an easy and enjoyable book to get lost in.
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Scarlett80 More than 1 year ago
Even though I guessed the ending half way through, it was still worth reading through to the end. A few twists that I didn't see coming. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon, I read it in one sitting.
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