Book Review – Carnival of Shadows

Carnival of Shadows

On the surface, it appears that this book is about the FBI investigating the murder of a man found underneath a carousel at a carnival that has arrived in Seneca Falls, Kansas in 1959.  That is certainly one part of the story, but another huge part of the book is the backstory of FBI Special Agent, Michael Travis and it is fascinating.  From the book cover, we learn that Michael’s mother killed his father and was subsequently found guilty and executed.  The author flips back and forth between the present (1959) and Michael’s backstory which involved the death of his father, his mother’s incarceration and execution, his subsequent time in the Welfare system in Kansas and then going to live with a distant relative (through marriage, not blood).  Now, I am all about the story and the characters when it comes to whether I am enjoying a particular book and I’m not as observant at noticing the style of writing as other reviewers, but I found the writing in this book so beautiful that it made me sit up and notice.  I found myself slowing down in reading this book so that I could savor the writing (something that I normally do not do).

Along with a fascinating back story, the present day (1959) story is pretty interesting too.  A carnival has arrived in town, they have pitched their tents and are putting on their shows.  On their second day in town, a man is found underneath the carousel but no one knows who he is – the carnival workers claim they don’t know him and the townspeople don’t know him and that is when FBI Special Agent Travis is put on the case, but with restrictions.  Travis’ job is to find out whether this crime falls within the purview of the FBI, or the local sheriff’s office.  His boss informs him that he is not to file daily reports, which is contrary to how investigations normally are run, and he is not allowed to request assistance from any FBI staff or district offices.  Eventually there are more questions than answers.  Special Agent Travis starts to question just how deep the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover are involved in this matter and whether there is blood on their hands.

The plot of the story is interesting and the talents of the carnival workers are captivating.  At the end of the story, the reader is rewarded with answered questions and a plot that is nicely wrapped up in a bow.

I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would when I first discovered it and I give it 5 stars on Goodreads.

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