Only Pretty Damned, by Niall Howell

Who doesn’t love clowns? Oh right… Well, better question. Who doesn’t love those small, cool circuses and carnivals that rolled into town periodically when you were a child (and yes, I’m assuming everyone reading this is both ‘this’ tall and ‘this’ old -> points to to the wooden cutout of a cartoon character)? You know the ones I mean. If you close your eyes you can still still smell the popcorn and the elephants, imagine the aerialists and the knife throwers and, yes, the clowns.

Rowland’s World Class Circus. You see the sign and know you’re in for a real treat. And you are entertained! How could you not be. Every performer a talented professional. You especially love the warm up for the main event. Freddy Folly. A clown’s clown. Once a headliner on the trapeze, but… well, let’s just say it’s complicated.

Toby (Freddy) has been with the circus a hell of a long time. He has his ups, his downs. Drinks entirely too much (but hey, it’s a stressful job). And knows things. Dark things. About the circus. About other performers. About himself. And he knows most of all, he wants back on the trapeze. One way or another. It’s noir, however. Carnival Noir. So the going is going to be rough.

I love the atmosphere of this book. The feel of it. All the bits oozing out as the character’s populating the story come alive, transporting me to a different time, though definitely not a simpler time. So next time you see a clown, wonder what he or she is thinking of under that makeup, understand that they probably aren’t plotting your unfortunately demise – but if they are, you probably deserve it.

4/5