Ophelia's Ghost
Gary Lee Entsminger and Susan Elizabeth Elliott
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Buy *Ophelia's Ghost* by Gary Lee Entsminger and Susan Elizabeth Elliott online

Ophelia's Ghost
Gary Lee Entsminger and Susan Elizabeth Elliott
Pinyon Publishing
292 pages
November 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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A joint effort by first-time novelists Gary Lee Entsminger and Susan Elizabeth Elliott, Ophelia's Ghost appeals to the cultural anthropologist at heart. Mystery surrounds the disappearance of Eva Hail, an anthropologist who is investigating Anasazi ruins in hopes of better understanding the demise of their civilization. Eva’s father enlists tracker Joe Hill to find his daughter. As Joe examines the evidence he is confronted with his own past, as well as ideas about ancient religions, astronomy, the power of memory, and our relationship with the earth.

Throughout the book, and within these global themes, we are also exposed to specific post-WWII American themes, including the existence of UFOs, tension with Russia, and the rise of popular culture. With Hamlet onstage, Shakespearean ideas influence the tone of the investigation, while Bobby Freeman sings in the background.

- ...Shakespeare put some lightness in every play, even in the tragedies, as if he thought we couldn’t get through the difficult parts without some relief.

- Makes sense to me. And maybe he had something else in mind too? That sometimes we need to close our eyes to see. (pg 60)
Entsminger and Elliott weave together a variety of themes throughout this novel. During this process - or as a result of it - not enough time is devoted to suspense. Instead, the mystery seems to be a vehicle to express ideas the authors are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about. At times this reads more like an anthropology lecture, interesting though it is. The ideas are often expressed through conversations between characters, some of whom are coincidentally experts in their field, and this hinders the momentum of suspense. When they do focus on the mystery, however, they get it right.
About thirty yards from the first building, he stopped and knelt in the sagebrush. Again he waited. Except for the light he’d seen earlier, which was still shining in the small building, he saw nothing besides shadows. It was a warm night; crickets chirped. As he started to rise to move toward the small building, the door opened, and a man stepped outside. The man stood for a moment then struck a match to light a cigarette. His face lit up as well. Joe knew him in an instant: Roy Hail. (pg 225)
This excerpt occurs towards the end of the novel, and it exemplifies the ability of Entsminger and Elliott to craft suspense, a gift they could have embraced more throughout the book. But despite this, Ophelia's Ghost is an impressive undertaking. Entsminger and Elliott are not afraid to play with the structure of their novel. In a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, they omit quotation marks, using only dashes to indicate speech. Throughout the book they have included photography, hand-drawn pictures and graphs, poems, and summaries of thoughts, all of which add insight into the storylines.

The content is as fascinating as the presentation and begs a further conversation with the authors. Readers are left to consider the many questions which are left unanswered, not the least of which is “Will Entsminger and Elliott write a second novel?” If so, it will certainly be worth a second look.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Sarah Hunter, 2009

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