“Life was not unlike the wisp of fog that curled around the base of a grave marker, softly caressing the marble before dissolving into the violet shadows of night.”

Opening line of “The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus” by Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright’s lyrical prose adds a whimsical feel to her eerie narrative in “The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus”. Each line lures the reader a little closer and, simultaneously, raises the hair upon the back of one’s neck. A time-split novel, I enjoyed flipping from 1928 to modern day because Jaime does it so effortlessly, the thread weaves elegantly from one time to another linking the mystery at the heart of both.

Pippa is the leading lady of 1928 and her physicality has been judged from birth. Whilst feeling she should be grateful to have a home, she rails internally against the oppressive behaviour of her adoptive father. She longs to spend time at Bonaventure Circus so when an injured newly born elephant responds to her, it begins her journey of finding her inner strength.

In the present day, recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, Chandler is railing against her body and how society, especially her family, will receive the news of the debilitating effect the disorder is having on her. Terrified they’ll take her son from her, she conceals her problems and moves to renovate the old Bonaventure circus train depot. The real estate agent fails to inform her, prior to purchase, of the murder of a young woman in the depot in 1928 or the subsequent disappearance of a young woman decades later. The town believes the depot is haunted and, on her first night, Chandler is called as a neighbour spots a light moving inside. Chandler dismisses mystical intervention and files the case with the police but, over the next few days, strange things keep occurring and she wonders what she’s gotten herself, and her son, into!

I am a huge animal lover so I flinched and read with my eyes “closed” every time one entered the story but, rest assured, the animals are fine! The humans don’t fair quite as well! The murder mystery expands into the hunt for a serial killer and is intriguing, it kept me guessing. Pippa’s father is so well written, I loathed him from the start and wished I could scream “run!” I love the characters of the circus and the town, the smaller characters are beautifully crafted!

I have a chronic pain condition so deeply related to Chandler’s challenges and fears. Jaime Jo has captured the feelings amazingly. She has written the hope of God, the peace only He can give into this story whilst reflecting accurately the struggle it is to live in those promises every day. In the darkness of this story, she finds a way to write an ending of light. There is gentle romance and deep family love which I so enjoyed!

It’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale and highly recommend this one. But ,be warned! I couldn’t stop reading until I knew who did it!

From the back cover:

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 received a complimentary copy of the book from Bethany House Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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