They say Jerusalem College, Cambridge, is haunted by Mrs Whichcote’s ghost. In 1786, Frank Oldershaw claims he saw her in the garden, where she drowned. Now he’s under the care of a physician. Desperate to salvage her son’s reputation and restore him to health, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs her own agent – John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts, a controversial attack on the existence of ghostly phenomena. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts the uneasy status quo. He glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could.
But Holdsworth’s powers of reason and his knowledge of natural philosophy have other challenges. He dreams of his dead wife, Maria, who roams the borders of death. Now there’s Elinor, the very-much-alive Master’s wife, to haunt him in life. And at the heart of it all is the mystery of what really happened to Sylvia Whichcote in the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem. Why was Sylvia found lying dead in the Long Pond just before a February dawn? And how did she die? Indeed, why was she at Jerusalem, living or dead, in the first place?
I discovered this gem of a book on our library’s website while looking for books to listen to while walking at night. While it is listed on Good Reads as a paranormal/ghost story, the existence – or non-existence – of ghosts in this story is simply the backdrop for a good old fashioned mystery. John Holdsworth spends his time in search of the more reasonable explanation for what Frank Oldershaw witnessed in the garden and does so in the end. Although there are a few threads of the plot which are left unresolved, they are but minor bits to the over-all mystery which is solved very reasonably.