A circus vanishing act that abruptly terminates a marriage sets the stage for this tale of a lover's quest: a brooding, violent first novel from ex-tiger groom Stevens. Alex Barton and his actress wife Iris stumble on a circus while vacationing on an island off the southern New England coast; she volunteers to be part of an act and disappears, leaving Alex baffled when the ringmaster denies it ever happened--and then completely at sea when the circus itself vanishes without a trace. His search for Iris goes nowhere, and after a year he returns to the island to try to find her by drowning himself. Saved by a friendly policeman who understands that the mystery is more than Alex's fantasy, he follows a lead to a nearby island owned by the mysterious Volenti, who keeps a private army on hand to handle trespassers. Taken prisoner and tortured when he sneaks ashore, Alex escapes and joins the army, the better to learn the island's secrets. After being forced to fight an adversary from the ranks--a fight in which he beats the man to death because he made lewd remarks about Iris--Alex escapes again into the ranks of the circus performers whom the army is deployed to protect. He shines as a high-wire artist and clown, but flubs his debut when the mind- reader distracts him with thoughts of his lost love. Sent away from this isle of fantasy and woe, he resumes his search, finally locating the circus in Mississippi and Volenti himself in New Hampshire, where the old man, dying, tells Alex the terrible reason why he and his wife had to be separated. Loosely hinged, this is more a surreal one-man adventure than a story of abiding love: despite promising moments, it lacks the sustaining power to make it memorable.