Zakk reviews Circus + The Skin by Keith McCleary

“Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness, simple reviews from a simple reader…”

Hello friends, here is the first of a few public apologies that I’d like to make over the next couple of months concerning overlooked reviews. Today I’d like to give a holler to the fine folks at Kraken Press. I received a copy of Circus + The Skin from Kraken Press & Keith McCLeary for review consideration way back when, October/ Novemberish of 2018 to be precise. This was just as the world was falling down around myself and the family. Which is not meant as an excuse. I dropped the ball… then I kicked it. I managed to chase the ball down and proceeded to pop it. Fuck life, man. Which sucks because the book is wonderful and I honestly think that you’ll dig it. Keith, Kraken Press, I sincerely apologize for my lack of professionalism. I owe you one, a big one, let me know how you’d like to collect.

Zakk reviews Circus + The Skin by Keith McCleary, 251 pages published by Kraken Press, December 3rd, 2018.

Media Format

Kindle eBook provided by the publisher for review consideration.

Entertainment Value (Because the kids like numbers)

5/ 5


When a circus caravan is torn apart by a destructive summer storm, the show’s tattooed man and his fellow performers are scattered across the wheat fields of a nameless hamlet. The tempest’s survivors convene at a local boarding house, but a series of violent attacks and strange deaths sabotage their attempts to regroup.

The show’s tattooed man is Sue, a middle-aged, world-weary war veteran whose days are haunted by dark memories. At night his inks call to him, seemingly alive. As the circus strains to stay the course, Sue’s sense of reality begins to fragment — and something reaches for him from the recesses of his past.


Name me one person who isn’t fascinated by the world of carnies, sideshow performers, and the vintage traveling circus and I’ll name you one person who won’t be sharing a drink with me anytime soon. The manufactured sparkle of the midway, the smell of the over-fried and/ or over-sweet cuisine, the spectacle… all a veil cloying the underlying essence of dinge, caution, perhaps danger. It’s an impure entertainment, an exoticness that you really can’t find anywhere else, nor can you really find it in its true form of yesteryear.

Keith McCLeary resurrects the mystique of the traveling circus and spins a wonderful yarn of murder, mystery, and intrigue amid the backdrop of a dying era. I found the dynamic of the performers and their relationships to each other (and against each other) wonderful, almost like opposing gangs, a little west side story under the big top. Tumbler’s vs. sideshow talent, etc. Everyone loyal only to themselves, and the circus… until it pays not to be. Main player Sue is a great character, the only performer truly loyal to the tent and the ringmaster. He’s a tragic brute beauty whose life is told in the tattoos he wears upon his skin. There is tragedy and conflict abound even before the circus starts falling apart around Sue, and the narrative dips into a spiritual mystery.

Circus + The Skin is a fantastic read, #2 on my favorite reads of 2018 list as a matter of fact. It strikes me as something I’ll return to and reread in the future, I’d also be glad to read anything else from Keith McCLeary that comes down the pipeline. Please check it out and let me know what you think.


A definite purchase.

Put this Book on a Playlist With

Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

What I Need to add to my TBR pile

The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and/ or publisher and I am choosing to review it voluntarily. These are my honest, unbiased feelings. I did not receive any sort of compensation.

Available for Purchase


And while you’re here, check out Zakk Madness, The Eyes of Madness, stop by and say hello.




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