In another departure (Incident at Badamya, 1989, etc.) from the author's Mrs. Pollifax mystery series, an exotic background again takes a leading role--this time, a role shared by 16-year-old Caressa Horvath. The time is pre-WW I, and Caressa--a budding beauty, daughter of a struggling carnival family, expert juggler, and pickpocket--has been sent with hard-saved money to a private school in Boston, to satisfy the mother who's determined to make a lady of her. Ever impoverished, Caressa makes an ill-judged attempt at theft that introduces her to wealthy linguist-anthropologist Jacob Bowman. He marries her, and soon after they leave on an exploratory mission to Africa--first to Tripoli, then across the Sahara. The expedition, through hostile Tuareg country, ends in disaster; but it's only a beginning for Caressa, taken captive, who will spend the next harrowing years fighting to survive enemies and the desert; finding friends; finding love--only to discover betrayal on her return to civilization. As her chronicle unfolds from the vantage of great old age, the reader will experience a land and an era brought to teeming life; share Caressa's highs and lows; and exult with her when the last laugh is hers. Gilman's best--and a tribute to the artful power of simple, old-fashioned storytelling in the hands of a master.