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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Only Pretty Damned by Niall Howard

Niall Howard's debut is a noir story about the underbelly of life in a post-World-War-II circus, with a disgruntled clown, formerly a headlining trapeze star, at its center.

I listened to Niall Howell's debut, Only Pretty Damned, noir historical fiction set behind the scenes at Rowland's World Class Circus.

I love a story set at a circus, and this is a dark take with lots of seedy characters.

In Only Pretty Damned, Toby is a former celebrated trapeze artist, but carelessness cost him his headlining spot, and now he's a grumpy clown who's becoming more and more bitter, petty, egotistical, scheming, and greedy.

Toby is chillingly without remorse and evolves into an almost purely vengeful person, manipulating his actions and remarks according to who's around him.

Toby is not a sympathetic character-- he eventually begins to seem like a sociopath--and Howell's storytelling is stark and feels like a carefully measured black-and-white movie.

I wasn't sure whether Toby was going to enact revenge on those he felt wronged by or if he'd get the comeuppance of a lifetime, and I was glad to be unsure about where the story was headed.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I received an audiobook edition of this book courtesy of and NeWest Press.

You might also like the books on my Greedy Reading List Six Spooky, Gothic Tales.


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