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Before I begin I need to mention that I won this ARC copy of “Carnival of Shadows” in a GoodReads giveaway, and that my review is based on the version of the book I received non profit blah blah blah.

Let’s start with the synopsis:

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.
Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence.

As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust?

In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart

[Via GoodReads].


I have to say that the premise of this book was really interesting, the mysterious carnival, a murder and the FBI. When I began the storyling I couldn’t help but think I was reading a story about Hotchner from Criminal Minds as I didn’t feel that Travis’ character was anything more than a typical law enforcement character complete with “troubled” history in the form of an abusive father murdered by his mother.

I was intrigued by the murder of the mysterious man underneath the merry-go-round, and in fact reminded me of “The Colorado Kid” by Stephen King, and a part of me wanted to see the outcome unresolved as well, but the story that Ellory developed was far different to what I expected. For me this story ran from something Criminal Minds through to the X-Files.

In the first half of the novel we get this solid investigation into the murder of an unfortunate soul, but how the story developed was a bit… ludicrous? I’m not sure how I felt about the conclusion, and to be fair it was another one of those stories that had a lot of pages, and felt that it was building to what should have been an epic conclusion, but it was deflated as everything just fizzled out and moved on.

I don’t know. It was an atmospheric read, and I enjoyed being in 1950’s America, but I just feel that there was something missing about this book. Perhaps it was because it was the ARC copy, so things had perhaps not been edited out.

There was one thing that I found quite irksome in this version, and perhaps it’s change for later versions, but the continued use of “Federal Bureau of Investigation” rather than FBI… it’s like it was to add to the word count more than anything… that’s probably just me though.

I think I could recommend it if you want an atmospheric read then pick this one up for something a little on the different side, but personally I don’t feel that the synopsis reflects the novel. I wouldn’t have called this a “thriller” but more of a slow burner that fizzles out… which is a shame as I wanted to like this more.

That being said I think that this has introduced me to a new author, someone that I haven’t read before and would be interested in reading some more of his work.

Keep on reading,