1928: The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.
Present day: The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.
I’m not sure that there is anyone better than Jaime Jo Wright at writing a dual timeline novel, and the fact that she manages to do it with a dark and eerie suspense–in both timelines–makes it all the more amazing. The two timelines are intricately interwoven so that you’d hardly have a story if you cut out one or the other, and that cannot be said for all dual timelines I’ve read. Each is equally enthralling, and through it all, in both timelines, the creepiness and suspense builds and builds.
The past timeline shows a glimpse of circus life I’d not experienced before; rather than focus on the performers and performances–and all their ensuing drama–this was more about the separation of the ownership and the circus folk, and Pippa’s struggles with knowing that she was born to one yet raised to other–part of both yet fitting with neither. Chandler’s story takes on some less common themes too–single motherhood as a result of a promiscuous youth and an unrelated chronic debilitating disease. In spite of feeling like a worthless screw-up due to her past, Chandler is impressive with her tenacity and fierce love for her child.
Both Pippa and Chandler have gone through life feeling like nobody sees them, least of all God. And they are definitely not alone in that–I’ve struggled with the same feeling, even in the face of other blessings and proof of God’s care. In Genesis 16:13, God is specifically called “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees,” probably as a specific reminder to those of us who struggle with feeling unseen. That aspect of the story alone would have endeared it to me, but combined with all the other elements of a story well-told, it easily rates a full five stars. Highly recommended!