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Raised by an abusive father who believed he wielded the power of God, Sarah Perkins suffered a traumatic childhood, and then witnessed his murder as her mother killed him to save an innocent victim from his incoherent rage. Immersed in a twisted religion that supported traditional gender roles at the expense of human life, Jared Perkins died vowing revenge.
Ten years later in 1910, this independent and ambitious woman embarks on an adventure aboard the Spirit of the River, the premier paddleboat on the Ohio and Mississippi. All her life she dreamed of piloting this ship and spent hours behind the wheel under the supervision of the captain. Jeremy Smith, her friendly rival and romantic interest, beats her to the license, removing the challenge from her existence. In defiance of her upbringing, Sarah longs to prove that she’s as good as a man. She resents being sidelined because she’s a woman, but on this trip she gets her wish.
Sarah is put to the test in ways a pilot cannot imagine when a Russian member of Le Théatre d’Illusion, a traveling troupe of entertainers, disappears under suspicious circumstances. While a mysterious illness afflicts the passengers, resulting in incapacitation and death, time is running out. A thrilling excursion turns into madness and mayhem aboard this early twentieth-century cruise through hell.