By Wook Kim
Updated June 04, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

On a gray December day in 1872, 400 miles off the coast of Portugal, a freighter captain spotted the Mary Celeste sailing erratically on the horizon. Once aboard, his men found the ship deserted. But there was no evidence of calamity or violence; it was as if the crew had vanished into the salt air. In an exhaustively researched book that sometimes bogs down in the sheer mass of facts, Hicks engagingly reconstructs the events and