Kaleidoscope

Overview

Jack Romaine's addiction to speakeasies and cards has landed him in a tight spot-one which he can't use his good looks to get out of. With debts to dangerous men piling up, he becomes an unwilling recruit for a Cincinnati gangster needing an expendable tool to recover his stolen cash and railroad bonds. Unfortunately, Jack is not the only man on the trail of the stolen money-he is in competition with a sadistic killer who relishes the carnage he leaves in his wake. The trail leads south to Kaleidoscope; a 'beddy'...

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Overview

Jack Romaine's addiction to speakeasies and cards has landed him in a tight spot-one which he can't use his good looks to get out of. With debts to dangerous men piling up, he becomes an unwilling recruit for a Cincinnati gangster needing an expendable tool to recover his stolen cash and railroad bonds. Unfortunately, Jack is not the only man on the trail of the stolen money-he is in competition with a sadistic killer who relishes the carnage he leaves in his wake. The trail leads south to Kaleidoscope; a 'beddy' for freaks during the months when carnival is out-of-season.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Hapless, handsome Jack Romaine, a small-time gambler and drinker in 1929 Cincinnati, tracks a mysterious woman who's the key to a hidden fortune in Wimberley's evocative mystery. Hauled before gangster Oliver Bladehorn, Jack is given a simple chore that will cancel his debts: pick up a woman being released from prison who will lead him to the prize in cash and stocks. On a trail rife with cruelty, violence and murder, he finds himself in Tampa, Fla., at Kaleidoscope, a "beddy" where carnies rest between gigs and a place for people who don't fit in anywhere else. Jack goes to work as a "brodie" (a gopher) in the hopes of getting a lead, while trying to avoid the brutal Arno Becker, who's after the same fortune. Best known for his Florida-based Bear Raines series (Pepperfish Keys, etc.), Wimberley invests both Jack and the carnie freaks with distinct personalities and common dignity. This vividly captured subculture has its own grotesque charm and beauty. (Sept.)

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Library Journal

In 1929, a Cincinnati gangster whose driver relieved him of both money and stocks offers Jack Romaine an easy way out of his gambling debts by simply meeting Sally Price, the driver's girl, as she leaves prison. Sally winds up dead, killed by someone else after the money. The only clue Jack has is the name Alex Goodman, which leads him to Kaleidoscope, an off-season circus-freak beddy outside of Tampa. In this community, Jack quickly learns, he is the freak. Among the assorted characters he encounters are wise-cracking midget Tommie Speck, the three-breasted Cassandra, and Luna, the blue-skinned beauty who is the boss. They all clam up at the mention of Alex Goodman. Jack becomes a brodie, the lowest grunt, but he is slowly accepted after he saves the life of a pair of Siamese twins. When Sally's killer shows up, Jack finally makes some headway into discovering what happened to the missing money. Wimberley (The King of Colored Town) creates an array of circus characters rivaling those in Todd Browning's classic film Freaks. In the end, Jack has learned some humanity and can be a true father to his son. Recommended for larger libraries. [Wimberley's The King of Colored Town has just won the first Willie Morris Award for Fiction for a novel set in the South.-Ed.]
—Joshua Cohen

Kirkus Reviews
A Prohibition Era gambler tries to pay off his debts by tracking down money in an unlikely setting-the off-season outpost of a traveling carnival. Wimberley (King of Colored Town, 2007, etc.) returns to mysteries with hero Jack Romaine, a handsome Cincinnati widower with an addiction to risky behavior who has found himself deeply in debt to gangster Oliver Bladehorn. Bladehorn promises to forgive the debts if Jack can uncover his stolen fortune, but he raises the stakes by threatening the safety of Jack's mother-in-law and young son. The situation is further complicated by a deranged thug named Arno Becker who is also after the money. A hot lead sends Jack by train to Northern Florida (familiar territory for Wimberley) to look for a man named Alex Goodman who was supposedly living at Kaleidoscope, an off-season camp of carnies run by the beautiful, blue-skinned Luna Chevreaux. Jack learns quickly that Alex is dead, but something is still off about the camp-and particularly about Princess Peewee, a 600-pound woman who was said to be Alex's lover, and who is immediately suspicious of Jack's presence. Others warm to him, particularly Luna and a pair of married dwarves, and though he initially stands out in a world literally made up of circus freaks, by the time Becker picks up his trail, Jack realizes that he has essentially found a new family at Kaleidoscope. Time is running out, so Jack risks his budding relationship with Luna to dig further into the camp's secrets to get answers about the missing fortune. While the final twist isn't obvious, it also is not nearly as remarkable as the genuine warmth the author uses to conjure an alienated but loving community of outcasts. Suspense issecondary here, but the story still works.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612181202
  • Publisher: AmazonEncore
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Pages: 267
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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