Lisa Goldstein, Walking the Labyrinth (Tor, 1996)

Molly Travers, heroine of Walking the Labyrinth, knows that the great-aunt who raised her was part of a traveling magic act called the Allalie Family. She is startled to hear, however, that there was another sister, Thorne, in the family; she was raised believing that her great-aunt Fentrice was her grandfather Callan's only sister. Furthermore, when she calls Fentrice to ask her about it, her great-aunt is puzzled at the mention of a sister.

Intrigued, Molly decides to visit her great-aunt and find out more. Fentrice remembers someone named Thorne, but not as a sister; rather, she claims that Thorne was someone who joined the act along the way, later leaving them and dropping out of sight. Then Molly finds an old pamphlet about something called the Order of the Labyrinth. The pamphlet is hidden in the trunk Fentrice used during her days on the road, and Molly has no opportunity to read it during her visit. Once back in Oakland, she tries to find out more.

She joins forces with John Stow, the private investigator who first brought Thorne and the Allalie Family to her attention, and before she knows it, she's on a plane to England. They visit the former home of the Lady Dorothy Westingate -- a mansion with a strange labyrinth in the basement -- and both are drawn in both literal and figurative labyrinths. Bit by bit, the multiple mysteries unravel as Molly works her way through the maze of her family history -- and legacy. For it would appear that the Allalies were -- and are -- capable of real magic as well as stage magic.

Lisa Goldstein once again displays her remarkable talent for developing a complex and tightly woven plot, rich in detail and symbolism. The various threads of the narrative come together naturally, right up to the satisfying conclusion. Molly is bright and interesting, and the reader is engrossed not only in her search for answers to the mystery at hand but in the personal labyrinth through which she makes her way as well. Always on the move, always working temporary jobs, Molly has never made any connections to any place or person, until now. The other characters are well delineated, and it is refreshing to read a novel in which a man and woman can work together as platonic friends.

This is an entirely engrossing novel, and like the labyrinth, you won't want to emerge until you learn all its secrets for yourself.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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