Alexander C. Irvine, Author . Tor $25.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0116-1

Thanks to its vivid 19th-century setting, this debut horror novel rises considerably above the average. In the great New York fire of 1835 that kills his wife, newspaper typesetter Archie Prescott thinks he's also lost his four-year-old daughter, Jane. But Jane has survived, hideously scarred and kidnapped by Riley Steen, who once worked for P.T. Barnum. Steen possesses a chacmool, a Mesoamerican mummy through which a proper sacrifice will bring the god Tlaloc to rule the world. That proper sacrifice is Jane Prescott. By 1843, once Prescott realizes that he's in danger and that Jane is alive, he pursues her and Steen down the Ohio River to Mammoth Cave, where Steen found the chacmool years before. After a nightmare journey facing both human and occult menaces, Prescott confronts those who seek his daughter's blood. With the help of a guide, the slave Stephen Bishop (willing to risk his chances of freedom to prevent Jane's murder), he attempts to snatch Jane back to safety. While the plot may be fairly standard, with its theme of "old gods seeking revenge/return," Irving provides a fascinating, unromanticized picture of P.T. Barnum's early career, the bloodthirsty gangs of New York, life on the Ohio River and the precarious condition of even the most privileged slaves. The characterization is nearly as accomplished as the historiography, and the two together make the book an exceedingly solid achievement, with a great deal of promise for the author's future. (July 11)

FYI:A descendent of P.T. Barnum, the author has published short stories in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Asimov's.

Reviewed on: 06/03/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70730-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 416 pages - 978-0-7653-4098-6
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4299-7580-3
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