In Ghost Messages, the exciting new novel by Alberta’s Jacqueline Guest, a 13-year-old Irish girl named Ailish O’Connor sneaks onto a ship in pursuit of a man who has stolen her father’s solid-gold horse statuette, only for it to set sail for Newfoundland before she can return to shore. She cuts her hair to pass for a boy and blend in on the ship, which is installing the first cross-Atlantic telegraph line (it is 1865). When an Irishman she has befriended is accused of sabotaging the cable line, she is determined to get to the bottom of the crime, and recover the stolen statuette.
Like a 19th-century Nancy Drew, Ailish is a compelling protagonist who consistently uses her wits and shows an unflappable sense of loyalty and justice. The story’s pace is occasionally slowed by moments of unnecessary introspection, such as the narrator’s reflections on Ailish’s newfound confidence, but overall the book’s balance of action, description, and dialogue make for an appealing page-turner.