The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright
This dual-timeline mystery was my third read by Jaime Jo Wright and, can I say, my absolute favourite of hers so far.
The writing in this book is strong and follows two separate characters: Pippa, in the late 1920’s, and Chandler in the present day. Wright has crafted both characters in a way that makes them feel flawed and so very real — women that you can connect with and understand.
The first timeline is set in the late 1920s and follows the story of Pippa — the adopted daughter of the owner of Bonaventure Circus. While the circus is a refuge for many rejected by society, Pippa was cast from its inner circle as a baby. Guarded by a mysterious figure named The Watchman, Pippa can’t help but feel compelled to uncover her roots. Her connection to an injured baby elephant is a touching analogy for her own feelings of neglect and rejection, as she searches for the truth about her birth parents. Along the way, Pippa is thrown into the path of a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and uncovers evidence of a serial killer haunting the circus train. But how far will she have to go to find the truth?
The second timeline follows Chandler Faulk — a project manager for the crumbling, old circus train depot. Chandler dives into the depot’s history in hopes of revitalizing the area and proving to her uncle that she is capable of handling the job. As she balances being a single, working parent with a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease, Chandler is pulled deeper into the circus’ dark past — uncovering some very real, present-day implications.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Both timelines were beautifully written with intriguing plots and page-turner chapters. Unlike a lot of traditional Christian fiction, the author isn’t afraid to explore some darker and edgier emotions and elements. Wright was able to weave together conversations about ghosts and the spiritual side of faith in a way that didn’t pretend to have all the answers but simply felt honest and true to character.
I also love how the dialogue and character interactions in Wright’s books feel so believable. One of my critiques with the Christian suspense genre, in general, is that it’s often heavy on the romance elements and light on the suspense. But this book blended the two aspects so well! Both timelines had romantic secondary-plots but it didn’t distract from the mystery or the tension that was building — instead, it added to the character motivation and created a well-rounded story. The character development felt entirely realistic (not cheesy!) and the relationships were ones I wanted to root for.
The only downside to a dual-timeline mystery is that the motivation of the present-day antagonist can occasionally feel a little weak. While I felt that again with this novel, it’s more of a nitpicky reader thing and didn’t ultimately take away from the surprise ending. (And it was a surprise!) While I’m usually able to figure out at least part of how a novel is going to unwind, this deliciously creepy read kept me wondering until the very end.
A solid four stars for this one!
Want to grab a copy for yourself? You can find The Haunting of Bonaventure Circus on Amazon, here!