The Equivoque Principle
The Equivoque Principle promises to be the first in the Cornelius Quaint Chronicles. Quaint is the ringmaster of Dr. Marvello’s Travelling Circus, which suffers a blow when Twinkle, the circus dwarf, is murdered, and Prometheus, the mute strongman, is framed for her death. Patterned after a fantastic penny dreadful, the mystery, set in London in 1853, delights in over-the-top characterizations such as the evil Bishop who partners with the equally villainous Reynolds to clear the borough of Crawditch by any means necessary. Quaint learns that it is no coincidence that members of his troupe are among the casualties.
Craske succeeds in creating an appealing world, that of the circus freaks who form their own family. Once the Bishop started slavering at the thought of the world domination he would achieve, however, the book became a cardboard “heroes and villains” story for me. But Craske has the chops to be a storyteller. Although plot twists and turns are wildly improbable, I just gave in and followed the story to its incredible conclusion, much like the Victorian readers of the original penny dreadfuls must have done.