Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Theater of Illusion-Kathy Steffen

Theater of Illusion
Kathy Steffen
Medallion, Aug 1 2010, $15.95
ISBN: 9781605420868

She and her brother Tobias survived a horrendous upbringing from an abusive religious father; thanks to her courageous mom who killed the intolerant family patriarch to protect the young from his murderous piety wrath. Now a decade later in 1910, Sarah Perkins will not allow any man to prevent her from doing what she wants to do. Her dream is to become a riverboat pilot though the River Board insists that is a gender specific (meaning males only) occupation. She chooses her childhood friend Jeremy, who she bested in many contests, as a pilot.

Sarah boards the Spirit of the River paddleboat that travels the Ohio and Mississippi praying she has the opportunity to pilot the vessel. Also on board is Le Theatre d’Illusion troupe. Soon afterward, a performer vanishes and much of the crew and passengers become ill with some dying from a mysterious ailment. She worries about her brother who drinks himself into stupors each night to bury the voice of their father that he hears when he is sober. Tobias fears his father possesses him and while intoxicated is killing in the name of God. Sarah is up against an avenging killer who might be her brother gone mad or the only person standing capable of steering the ship of doom to safety.

The third Spirit of the River historical (see Jasper Mountain and First, There Is a River) is a wonderful thriller that reminds readers women have come a long way from the past century as the heroine cannot crack the glass ceiling; women need not apply. Inside a strong mystery-adventure, this fast-paced entry looks at alcoholism, sexism, and other debilitating isms. Fans will want to ride the river with Sarah as their pilot though she reconsiders what she wished for when she first stepped on board.

Harriet Klausner

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