When the Carny Comes to Town, the third Jolie Gentil book by Elaine Orr, opens with a St. Patrick’s Day carnival in which Jolie sits in a dunk tank to raise money for the food pantry that she is in charge of. After drying off from the cold water, Jolie and her friends explore the carnival when Scooby, her one friend from the year she lived in Ocean Alley with her Aunt Madge during high school, notices a carny with whom he exchanges bad looks. Then, the next day the local police sergeant finds Jolie with her other local friend, Ramona, and rushes them to the hospital because Scooby has been attacked and fallen off the boardwalk, with bad brain injuries and potentially serious back damage. Then, a couple days after Scooby’s attack, his mother shows up, shocking everyone because she has dropped out of Scooby’s life after abusing and neglecting him as a child. The woman is drunk and not once visits Scooby, despite appearing at the hospital. But then, after disappearing for a week, her murdered body turns up. In anger at the way his mother had treated him, Scooby demands that Jolie stay away from looking into her death, but Jolie can’t leave alone.
This book has a darker feel than the previous two in the series. It deals with a more dangerous type of violence, with drug dealers as suspects. The cruel attack on Scooby and the details surrounding his criminal mother have less fun than the other books but are still riveting. We learn more about Scooby’s background too.
The audio version of this book is performed by Michael Spence, and the version really set off a couple of my pet peeves. The narrator of the book is a 28-year-old woman. So why would the publisher ever select a man with an older sounding voice to speak the part of a young woman? The disconnect is so strange that it makes the book much less enjoyable than it could be. Spence is a good narrator, but he just doesn’t fit this book. My other pet peeve is books that try to give sound effects. This one gives a slightly distorted sound to indicate when Jolie is voicing her thoughts instead of speaking aloud. This comes across as annoying, and a decent narrator does not need sound effects to differentiate between thought and speech.
When the Carny Comes to Town is a good addition to the Jolie Gentil series, though I liked the previous book, Rekindling Motives, much better. I suspect that the choice of the narrator had an effect on my lesser opinion of the book. I give the book four stars.
To purchase this book for yourself, click here on Amazon.