Oates has written a Gothic whodunit loaded with historical wonderings, romantic intrigue psychological pondering and more than a little humor - even a bit of slapstick from Jack London, Upton Sinclair and Teddy Roosevelt, all done with the charm and nuance that make Oates one of the best of the best. “Our lives can only be interpreted in retrospect, yet must be lived from day to day, blindly.”: So says Josiah Slade, the intrepid hero of the tale seeking to avenge the honor of his sister or know the reason why. It is Princeton, New Jersey, 1905, and the new industrialism is creeping up like women’s hemlines when Annabel Slade is carried off by a toad-like yet compelling lothario named Axson Mayte who seems to have cast a spell over the entire community. Mayte takes her to the murky Bog Kingdom where demons dance a merry dance, Annabel suffers and people wonder what happened. Did demons really help found Princeton University? Eventually it is made clear in true melodramatic style that will keep you guessing until the end.— Richard, Pittsburgh
Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth century: a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at its edges, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent and a powerful curse besets the families of the elite-their daughters begin disappearing. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.
When a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince, who might just be the devil, abducts a young bride on the verge of the altar, her brother sets out against all odds to find her. His path will cross those of Princeton's most formidable people, including Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House, soon-to-be commander in chief Woodrow Wilson, a complex individual obsessed to the point of madness with his need to retain power, the young idealist Upton Sinclair and his charismatic comrade Jack London, and the most famous writer of the era, Mark Twain-all of whom are plagued by "accursed" visions.