Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
Jaime Jo Wright’s latest novel, The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus, has an engaging and creative storyline with a few interesting twists along the way. However, some plot choppiness and the inconsistent pace of the storyline set the novel’s rating back to average. The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus has a split storyline with two protagonists, one in the past and one in the present. In the past, Pippa Ripley is the adopted daughter of a wealthy circus owner and his wife. Pippa is engaged to a prominent figure in society and has every creature comfort at her fingertips, but her predictable existence has one abnormality. A mysterious figure who calls himself The Watchman has lurked in the shadows of her life for as long as she can remember, and now he wants to meet in person. Against her better judgement, Pippa meets with him. This act that inadvertently becomes the straw that broke the elephant’s back (pun intended), as it opens the door to a conflict that grows and becomes increasingly complex. In the present, Chandler is a single mother who works for her uncle in his business of renovating old buildings for resale. While surveying a recent purchase – an abandoned train depot – Chandler uncovers a unsolved historical murder mystery. Her renovation project happens to be the site of the famous, decades-ago murder of Patty Luchent, an employee of the Bonaventure Circus. This discovery unfolds into increasing chaos, and Chandler soon finds herself swept along in a strange series of events that will force her to face her greatest fears in the present and reckon with the untold horrors of the past. As we previously mentioned, the plot and storyline in this novel are slightly above average, with interesting plot twists and a detailed storyline that holds the attention all the way through. Unfortunately, there are also errors here. The storyline is a bit scattery and cannot seem to find and hold onto a focal point. (spoilers ahead) One minute we’re witnessing Chandler and or Pippa struggling with their health challenges, then we’re reading interesting dialogue about the murder mystery, but do not fully feel a part of what is happening. This leads me to my final point on errors in this section. Because the novel is written entirely in the third person, the reader feels like a witness to events as they occur, instead of a willing participant. Readers need first person if they are expected to care about the characters and everything that is happening in a novel. In spite of these errors, on the whole Wright’s novel is good for a casual read, and therefore receives the rating we mentioned earlier.
Character Development (2 points)
Much like the plot and storyline, the characters in this novel also hover around the average portion of the rating scale. First, Chandler and Pippa are not bad protagonists, but there is an odd tone with Chandler throughout the novel. Thankfully this is mostly resolved through the lesson she learns in the end. Additionally, Pippa is a mixed character who doesn’t seem to know what she wants out of life. Both protagonists feel thrown together for the most part. (spoiler) In contrast, the antagonists are very well done. They both have realistic motives and backstories, and are realistic in their reactive choices. The minor characters are a mix of good and bad. Some are quite well done and have more depth and motive than the lead characters do, while others (like Pippa’s father and fiance) are stereotypical. Overall, this part of the novel receives an average score because of it’s 50/50 mix of pros and cons.
Creativity & Originality (.5 point)
Finally, Wright earns a half point in originality for crafting an interesting storyline that does not condone the sad truth behind circuses, nor does it paint them as the worst evil on earth – her view is balanced. It would have been nice to see more of this theme in the plot. Because of the errors listed above, we here at BOR do not recommend that this story be made into a Christian film, however, it is not a bad read for fans of murder mysteries.
Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points