The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Sometimes a book just delivers

TheLadiesofI had high expectations for this book.  The cover and the description worked their magic for me and added to that my love of fiction that includes circuses, magical realism and anything diabolic – well, I was quite simply transported.

The story gets off to a great start.  We meet Lara on the eve of her wedding, literally making last minute adjustments to her dress through the use of magic and this captivating start sets the scene for the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, Lara’s husband-to-be, Todd, is a no-show, and his strange disappearance and abandoned car, at the same spot where 30 years ago someone else went missing, provokes Lara into an unusual magical adventure.

Told in three distinct sections that allow us to get to know Lara before she travels to Paris and then back again in search of answers, the world building and settings are beautifully depicted.  The secret circus itself is wonderfully described, fantastically creative and utterly fascinating.  Only visible to those who have been invited, guests step into the circus via a huge devilish mouth that sets the scene for what they can expect.  On top of that we step back in time to Paris of 1925.  A place of creativity and passion where artists and writers mix with the glamorous ladies of the circus sparking passion and jealousy along the way.

Fundamentally, this is a story of family, of family ties, history, curses, revenge and coming home told through a combination of current day accounts involving a murder mystery that takes us to a magical realm where nothing is what it seems.  I mean, yes, on the face of it, there is a lot going on here but it all works so incredibly well.  The pacing is excellent and the final denouement nothing short of breathtaking.

On top of this the characters were good.  Lara was easy to like and I really enjoyed the family backstory.  Enough so that I was worried about her safety at certain points.  Always a good sign that the author has worked their magic.

Overall, this was a great read for me.  The combination of fascinating family and mysterious murder mystery worked a treat and I could barely put this down.  I definitely want more from Constance Sayers and I will be checking out her backlist as well as looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever she pens in the future.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars