Old London Bridge c1710Polack, Joel Samuel, 1807-1882 :Kororareka, Bay of Islands, New Zealand


Barbara Ewing

The Circus of Ghosts



New York, late 1840': an exciting brazen, loud young city exploding with new money and new people and new ideas: the telegraph, the daguerreotype, anaesthesia, spiritualism, occultism, table-tapping. And in Silas P. Swift's brash and beautiful circus a mother and daughter hide their damaged hearts and excite huge audiences in the big top: one shadowy mesmerist who can heal other people (but not herself); the other an acrobat and tightrope-walker who soars above New York.

But in London memories fester in the mind of an old and vicious duke of the realm who plots with an unscrupulous lawyer against the mother and daughter: to kill one and abduct the other across the Atlantic: bring her to me, she is mine.

So the lives of Cordelia and Gwenlliam Preston become unexpectedly and hauntingly entwined with the gangs of New York and the New York Municipal Police Department....

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...The book reminds me of Angela Carter's "Nights at the Circus" both in its scope and its vivid exuberance. Ewing shares Carter's interest in how vulnerable people create families out of the human flotsam and jetsam around them. There is tragedy as well as love and humour in the woman's "family"; they must either face their deepest fears, learn and move on or be destroyed. The book whooshes the reader along, and there is never a dull moment. It's exciting and thought-provoking and it warms the heart. What more could one ask? Highly Recommended.

A mother and daughter have run away to New York and joined a circus. One is a mesmerist, the other is a tightrope-walker. Both are using the trickery and illusion beneath the big top to hide from a violent past, but one man is hell-bent on finding them to settle a score. A gritty 19th-century thriller.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Ideal if you want to run away with the circus.

Her makeshift family of flamboyant characters matches the zesty bustle of New York perfectly…This is ultimately a book of loves and dangers, and the way loves and dangers gnaw at each other. Ewing sheds light on both.

It’s high drama and it happens with pace, gusto and much colour…a romping, cheerful novel full of likeable characters, racing breathlessly towards a conclusion…







One Minute Crying Time

The Petticoat Men

The Circus of Ghosts

The Fraud

The Mesmerist


The Trespass

A Dangerous Vine

The Actresses


Being an Actress


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