By Timothy Schaffert
(Riverhead Books, $28)
Mr. Bartholomew “Ferret” Skerritt from Omaha, Neb., is a street-smart ventriloquist swept by love down a path of riches, destruction and mysticism in Timothy Schaffert’s latest novel, The Swan Gondola. Set at the Omaha World’s Fair (loosely based on the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898), the book highlights the glamorous fair’s dirty underbelly — the actresses, magicians, apothecaries and pickpockets drawn to the fair’s allure of wealth. When Ferret is asked to sell Oscar, his beloved doll and partner in his act, he becomes a “puppet in a rich man’s grim comedy,” soon stripped of all he holds dear.