In this the second Charlie Sweetwater mystery, readers find Charlie out on the water for the anniversary of his brother’s death. Set fifteen years after the first book, readers find out what Charlie has been up to during that time as this story slowly unfolds. Charlie is sitting on the deck of his boat in total darkness when he imagines he hears someone swimming towards the boat. What he thinks he’s imagining turns out to indeed be a man swimming straight for the boat. He ends up diving in to save the man and brings him on board. The man, Julien Dufay, turns out to be a Frenchman from an oil rig some thirty miles from the boat. But the reasons for him to be in the Gulf at all are not about the oil rig, but about a family secret dating back over three hundred years. As Charlie was soon to learn, while Julien’s dream may be all about the past, Julien’s brother has another goal in his sight-one rooted very much in the present. There may be a mother lode of French history buried here, but there are also fossil fuels.
There are so many things about this book to love. The author has captured the Texas Gulf Coast area color perfectly. Charlie and the other characters both major and minor are so well drawn for readers that it is hard to remember they are fictional people. This is especially true since the “mystery” in the book is set against some very real historical facts complete with real people. The authors (who are a threesome) have done their research well and have managed to interweave the story of the LaSalle’s ship and it’s excavation as well as the discovered French settlement with the plot of the book that being Julien Dufay’s family history so well it’s hard to remember that the history is real but the novel is fiction.
Although LaSalle’s Ghost is published by a university press, it is very much main stream fiction. Readers who enjoy historical fiction-especially archeological mysteries, books with regional flavor and those who just plainly love a well crafted mystery should find this book appealing.