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The Ghost Manuscript


The Ghost Manuscript

In an undersea cave off the coast of Wales, a vast cavern of stone is uncovered by two divers. The stone cathedral looms 30 feet high, and in it is a carved-out area that obviously had been made by human hands. It is here that Carys Jones and her hired diving guide, Dafydd, sees the stone sarcophagus with an ancient cross etched into it. This is what they had been seeking, and the contents will provide some answers but mainly additional questions. Inside is a manuscript, written entirely in Latin and dating back to the sixth century, that provides clues as to what move the pair of divers need to make next.

This tense moment of discovery provides the prologue for Kris Frieswick’s debut novel. THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT is reminiscent of Indiana Jones, but also can be described as Steve Berry meets Dan Brown, and is a great trip back in time to the ancient legend of King Arthur. Carys is a Boston resident who works for Sothington's Auction House with a specialty in literature and ancient texts. When her boss, Mr. Plourde, calls her into his office one day, she can tell he is acting oddly. He gives her an assignment to make an assessment of the weighty library belonging to billionaire John Harper, with the intention to acquire and auction off the many priceless items he has.

Carys, whose unique name translates to “love” in Welsh, visits Harper’s home to make her appraisal of his collection. Harper himself has been residing in a rest home for the past several months, so his son JJ is representing him. His housekeeper, Nicola, introduces Carys to the library and is available for any questions. It does not take long for Carys to surmise that things are not as they appear. First off, Nicola is no housekeeper, but more a guardian of some specific ancient texts that she also is able to interpret. It is Nicola who introduces Carys to the hidden room behind some of the bookcases. Within that secret locale, which resembles a literary version of a panic room, she is shown the sixth-century manuscript that has long been off the grid.

"If the cliffhanger ending is any indication of additional stories, I think we may very well be enjoying further quality time with the 'female Indiana Jones' in the near future."

The author of the manuscript was a monk by the name of Lestinus. When Carys finally meets with Harper, he reveals that Lestinus was actually King Arthur’s personal priest. Harper, who allegedly is still recovering from a psychotic break, confides in Carys that as he was first poring through this ancient manual, he was visited by Lestinus himself. This was not a ghost, but the actual man appearing at his side and conversing fully with him as he researched the manuscript further. Lestinus indicated that he was able to assist in discovering King Arthur's final resting place --- a location that had long been part of ancient fable and folklore while also being used as fodder for seekers of myth to continuously search for the treasures that may be contained within.

Carys becomes obsessed with this mission and blackmails her boss to allow her to work on her own to focus on the secrets held within the manuscript and put the sale of Harper's library collection on the backburner. It is at this point that Carys makes a full commitment spurred by a bizarre event: the appearance of Lestinus to her one night. Conversing in Latin, he urges her to make the trek to Wales as that is most likely where the body of King Arthur will be found. Wales has a lot of personal meaning for Carys, as she is half-Welsh and half-American, and her long-estranged father who she has not seen or spoken to in decades lived there as a college professor.

Things are not going to go too smoothly for Carys as, unbeknownst to her, she is being tracked by a British killer who is on the payroll of the mysterious Mr. Gyles --- the same man who had approached her boss about obtaining Harper's collection. The culprit, known only as Frank, kills Nicola during a break-in at Harper's residence in the U.S. It will not take him long to puzzle out the breadcrumbs left by Carys and take his deadly agenda overseas for a visit to Wales.

In Wales, Carys does indeed have the inevitable reunion with her father, Anthony, and also befriends Dafydd, who is not only a wealth of Welsh historical information but also a top-notch deep sea diver. They pinpoint the potential location of King Arthur to the caverns off the island of Bardsey. It is here where Frieswick loops the story back into the events of the prologue and deftly uses them to springboard into further world-hopping treasure hunts, and the expected degree of danger and shady characters that often follow in these kinds of stories.

When the small team does locate what looks to be King Arthur's burial spot, they are disappointed to find no body but only more artifacts. The additional manuscript found in the place of King Arthur's body appears to have been written by his own son --- Madoc Morfran --- and, once interpreted, looks to be pointing to a completely different location, on another continent, that will indeed house his father's remains. Carys, with occasional guidance from Lestinus and the aid of Harper and Dafydd, takes her road show to an area within Cape Cod that may be the place they all sought. Of course, this too comes with a snag as it is on ancient Native American property and may actually play an interesting role in the history of these indigenous people.

THE GHOST MANUSCRIPT follows all the guidelines that make historical fiction and the hunt for ancient artifacts so interesting and hugely entertaining for the reader. If there is one area where I would have liked to have seen something different, it would have been in the use of Lestinus. Whenever he is present and conversing with Carys, the story zings with life and excitement. His presence is a bit underplayed in the finale, but he does make an enormously important appearance that begins with him imploring to Carys: “Suscitate viveque!” I'll leave my fellow readers to sort that one out and highly recommend you spend some time with the resourceful Carys Jones.

If the cliffhanger ending is any indication of additional stories, I think we may very well be enjoying further quality time with the “female Indiana Jones” in the near future.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 10, 2019

The Ghost Manuscript
by Kris Frieswick

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Post Hill Press
  • ISBN-10: 1642930245
  • ISBN-13: 9781642930245