The Mystery

April 23, 2013

Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so.

The Mystery has a Frankenstein-esque framing narrative, which takes place aboard a Navy ship, the Wolverine. The ship is sort of wandering around the ocean, blowing up wrecks, when it comes across a schooner called the Laughing Lass. This is odd for two reasons: first, that the Laughing Lass had disappeared two years before with eminent scientist Dr. Schermerhorn, journalist Ralph Slade, and its captain and crew. The second reason is that the ship is entirely uninhabited, beyond the dead bodies of a few rats. That, and there’s food and still-warm ashes from a fire, so the Laughing Lass can’t have been unmanned for long. Then…well, more mysterious stuff happens. And eventually one of a large number of missing people shows up and tells his story, and it’s absorbing and awful.

I usually have trouble with books fueled by impending doom, but not here. Or rather, I was pretty freaked out the entire time I was reading, but not in my usual, irrationally upset about bad things that haven’t happened yet way. Actually, I think I might have been reacting to it the way people are supposed to react to scary books and movies but that I never do. I mean, I’m not going to start reading more scary stuff, because I’m still a wuss, but I’m closer to understanding the appeal than I was a week ago.

I should probably also mention the animal slaughter. There was a lot of it. It was very effectively horrible in the traditional sense of the word, and I can’t believe I managed to get all the way through it. I just — there are a lot of dead seals, okay? A lot.

In conclusion: way to go, Samuel Hopkins Adams. I trusted you, and now I don’t. And I guess it could just be Stewart Edward White at fault, but, not having a whole lot of information on the subject, I’m going to blame them equally.


  1. Yikes. On the one hand, I love books with a feeling of impending doom. THE FORESHADOW. On the other hand, animal slaughter? No thank you.

    • If it helps, it’s a very effectively deployed scene of animal slaughter.

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