This installment of the Phryne Fisher mysteries takes a more sensationalist turn (yes, even in light of the incest, blackmail, drug-dealing, rape, and child-trafficking in earlier volumes). Hermaphrodites! Dripping pools of blood! Multiple and varied sexual assaults! Raving alcoholics! Bar brawls! Gang wars! Escapes from prison! People rendered unconscious by gunshots, stabbings, blows to the head, and simple exhaustion! Sex with clowns! Sex without clowns! Lions, tigers elephants and bears!
When too many things go inexplicably wrong at the traveling circus, old friend (she has about a million old friends) Alan Lee asks Miss Fisher to go under-cover as a trick-rider to investigate. Feeling stuck in a rut (of luxury and wealth, such a sob story), she agrees to leave home and servants behind for a few days of grime and greasepaint. Mostly clown greasepaint rubbing off on her during sex, but still! After all, she doesn't have Dot to do her laundry this time. It was nice to see Phryne a little less than supremely confident and stylish, even if the circumstances were entirely voluntary and thus not particularly rousing of my sympathy. And the mystery aspect was stronger than in the previous volume.