The Red Carnival

Susan Casper. Fantastic, $14.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-5154-1033-1
Affable yet morally dubious characters, a justifiable sense of dread, and a distinctive locale propel this frustrating story of evil permeating a carnival. Unfortunately, like the carnies scamming their marks with the art of misdirection, the plot meanders into unrelated tangents. In the 1980s, the Jim Dandy Traveling Amusement Fair heads to an abandoned lot in a small town outside Philadelphia. The lot once held Werner Morgan’s haunted mansion, which burned down. Town leaders want to draw superstitious patrons to the carnival to boost the value of the land so it can be sold to a developer. Longtime resident Eli Jefferson was a victim of Morgan’s evil and knows the devastating power Morgan had over Eli’s twin brother, Jake. Eli tries to warn people away from the carnival, but they ignore him, and the carnies are so attracted to the lure of gullible marks and coin to be made that they ignore the warning signs. Soon decent men and women start committing heinous acts, a mysterious ride suddenly appears, and all the lights at the carnival turn red. Sentimental backstories of the carnies, including their dreams and dark desires, petty jealousies, and love of family, aren’t enough to flesh out a meager plot that reaches a rushed and foregone conclusion. This posthumous publication for Casper (The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper), who died in 2017, will primarily be of value to collectors of her work. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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