Monday, March 17, 2014

Circus Couronne - R. Wright Campbell

I do have comics. Quite a few comics, actually, and I will get to them in time. Probably Tuesday, unless I finish another book before then (it's Sunday as I type this).

Circus Couronne is set on the eve of World War I. As in, the story starts in Sarajevo the day Archduke Ferdinand and Sophie were killed. Inspector Fauron was there from Switzerland pursuing an entirely different killer, but realized that when a bomb was hurled at Ferdinand's car, there was also a gunshot most everyone else missed. A shot that would have to have been taken by an exceptional marksman, someone far more skilled than the clumsy fellows with bombs and pistols who eventually succeeded. Certain aspects point to someone of great skill and agility, and there just so happened to be a circus in town that evening, which is how Fauron ends up sniffing around it, as one member of the troop turns up dead, and everyone scrambling. The people in the circus to hold on their life as a little country of their own, the countries hoping to produce evidence of a conspiracy to invoke war, the countries hoping to invoke a war.

The book has a certain momentum that carries the reader forward, but I wouldn't say I was terribly impressed by the writing. Fauron didn't make much of an impression as a character, though perhaps that was the point. Since he interacts almost exclusively with members of the circus, maybe Campbell made him more plain to let the circus folk contrast more brightly. I'm not sure it worked, and there are certain character developments that come along abruptly, that don't feel as though they were built up sufficiently. The friendship that develops between Fauron and the head of the circus, for one.

The idea of the circus as a microcosm for the world was interesting, though. The people are from many different countries and nationalities, and they mostly get along very well. But as war grows nearer, they begin to split along the lines of the treaties their home countries have signed. People who work together towards the same goal, do so for very different reasons, and the allegiances shift as circumstances change. Campbell stated it more bluntly than he needed, but it's a nice idea

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