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Travel Back to the 1904 World's Fair - an Editorial Review of "Paradise on the Pike"

Paradise on the Pike book cover

Book Blurb:

For fans of Water for Elephants and Devil in the White City, a mystery set in the enchanting world of Hagenbeck's Zoological Paradise on the grounds of the 1904 World's Fair.1903

Twenty-year-old Max Eyer is still reeling from his father’s recent death when a mysterious stranger’s offer to buy the family farm outside of Hamburg, Germany presents to him and his mother an unexpected opportunity to make a fresh start in America.

Welcomed by his uncle’s bustling family in St. Louis Max finds employment on the grounds of the upcoming 1904 World’s Fair, where he is hired as a zookeeper at Hagenbeck’s Animal Paradise on the Pike. Max’s enchantment with the trained animal shows, ostrich rides, and water sliding elephants is rivaled only by his fascination with Shehani, a beautiful Sinhalese woman who captivates the crowds of fairgoers by dancing among the lions.

However Max’s paradise unravels when a grisly discovery leads to an accusation of murder against the woman he loves. His efforts to uncover the truth may save her, but in this fantasy land of the fair where palaces are temporary, animals roam free, and people are on exhibit, will his own dreams be shattered by an ugly reality?

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Author Bio:

Sarah Angleton author photo

Sarah Angleton is a storyteller and history buff who has degrees in both zoology and literature and still isn't quite sure what she wants to be when she grows up. A Midwestern girl at heart, she spent a brief time living and writing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest before settling near St. Louis where she currently resides with her husband, two sons, and a very loyal dog. She is the author of Launching Sheep & Other Stories, a humorous look at history from the perspective of everyday life, historical thrillers Gentleman of Misfortune and Smoke Rose to Heaven, the historical family saga White Man's Graveyard, a Paradise on the Pike, a historical mystery set in the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

Editorial Review:

Eight days after his father had thrown back his final glass of vodka and keeled over dead in the barn, Max Eyer finished building a chicken coop that closely approximated a perfect miniature of the small stone farmhouse he now shared with only his mother.

The coop had been Mutti’s idea, a project to occupy Max’s mind in the days following his father’s untimely, if not entirely unexpected, end. That a drunkard had drunk himself to death in some unknown corner of Prussia was not particularly shocking. If anyone were to miss Felix, it would only have been his string of customers whose dependence on his foul, oily brand of homemade vodka indicated they were likely to one day share his fate.

This book opens with such a powerful scene! Immediately, we are painted a picture of Max and his father, and what he likely endured by being the son of an alcoholic. But it immediately does right into explaining how the grief, nevertheless, hit him hard. We also learn a bit about when and where they live, and his skills as he’s building the chicken coop. The words paint a picture that immediately draws you in.

Sarah Angleton's "Paradise on the Pike" is set against the colorful and busy backdrop of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. This book tells the story of a young man's journey in a far-off country and is also a sophisticated tale of romance, conspiracy, and the pursuit of justice.

The story centers on twenty-year-old Max Eyer, who moves to America from Germany after learning of his father's passing. When he gets a position at Hagenbeck's Animal Paradise on the Pike, a major World's Fair attraction, it presents an unanticipated chance.

The plot intensifies with a murder mystery that draws Max into a frantic attempt to clear Shehani, the alluring dancer and his love interest, who is being falsely accused of a horrible act. The novel deftly grabs the reader's interest right away and maintains it throughout a convoluted plot that builds to a dramatic and gratifying climax.

Lions, seals, goats, and children tramped through Max’s thoughts while the streetcar rolled toward Forest Park and Ernst prattled on about the humongous steel wheel taking shape on the fairgrounds.

Have you seen it yet?” he asked Max as they approached the Lindell entrance to the fairgrounds, where they both hopped off.

Max attempted to recall his cousin’s monologue, unsuccessfully searching the piled up words for meaning. “I haven’t,’ Max volunteered. “What is that?”

The Ferris Wheel? It’s precisely what the name suggests – an enormous wheel, originally designed for the Chicago fair, but we’ll make better use of it. There are boxes along the outside for people to ride in as it revolves. They say you’ll be able to see the entire fairgrounds from the top of it.”

Sounds terrifying.” Max hoped this was the correct response.

Through the dialogue, we learn more about our main character, Max, as well as the supporting cast of characters. Angleton's ability to write well is evident in the way her characters are developed. Max is a complicated and nuanced character who changes a lot throughout the book. As we explore this journey with him, we also gain and understanding of the world around him.

What we love about Max’s character was his relatability and the honesty in which he is portrayed in the story. The supporting cast members are masterfully written as well, written in a way that captures the variety of social backgrounds of the day. Shehani stands out in particular because she is portrayed with subtleties that make her both accessible and mysterious.

With an engrossing narrative voice and a gripping opening scene that establish the tone for the entire book, Angleton captures the reader's attention from the very first sentence. The first few paragraphs are masterfully written, offering mystery, adventure, and historical interest.

As for the plot and pacing, the story moves along well, with each chapter deftly building on the one before it. Because of her adeptness in pace and structure, Angleton makes sure that every loose end is wrapped by the conclusion of the story. This helps us feel like the story is completed in a satisfactory way and we are not left wanting at the end.

We especially loved the almost lyrical way certain scenes are written. It makes it easy to immerse yourself in the writing itself and feel as if you are right there alongside Max, experiencing everything that he is.

Max’s dreams, once haunted by the image of his father’s broken corpse, consisted now of swirling skirts, jingling bells, and Shehani, smiling and giggling at him with full red lips, a portrait he sketched over and over in his mind. He’d slept better than he had in months with this dream so sweet he dreaded wading through the dark fog of twilight sleep to the troubling hours of daylight, even when Frieda’s voice cut into his bliss.

Because of its distinctive locale and the way it blends real-life occurrences with imagined ones, "Paradise on the Pike" sticks out from others in the same genre. The novel's unique and engrossing examination of the 1904 World's Fair through the prism of a murder mystery provides insights into a crucial period in American history while drawing the reader into the emotional dramas of its characters.

Angleton's work is flawless and a pleasure to read because of her smart choice of language and meticulous editing. It's simple to lose oneself in early 20th-century St. Louis thanks to the layout's reader-friendliness. Because of its clear, simple organization and skillfully done chapter divisions that support the narrative's flow, the book is easy to follow and challenging to put down.

It has an incredibly wonderful and surprising finale. It thoughtfully considers the concepts delved into throughout the book while skillfully resolving the main mysteries and conflicts. Regardless of one's preference for a happy or sad ending, the reader finds the resolution to be suitable and emotionally satisfying.

With its beautiful and evocative style and abundant historical detail, Angleton takes the reader to another era. Her skill at fusing authentic historical data with the made-up world results in a story that is both incredibly entertaining and enlightening.

The story's general arc is skillfully written, having a distinct beginning, middle, and end that are all quite interesting. Plot development is thoughtful and well-paced, keeping the reader interested throughout the entire novel. All in all, a great piece of historical fiction.


“Paradise on the Pike” by Sarah Angleton receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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