"When I follow the thread of the Veiled Prophet Ball back to the myth that gave it its name," writes Lucy Ferriss, "I find rape, murder and battle." A portentous sentence, to be sure, smack-dab in the middle of Unveiling the Prophet: The Misadventures of a Reluctant Debutante a book that's part memoir, part history lesson, part social treatise. But the most wonderful aspect of this tome by native daughter Ferriss (a Mary Institute alumna, raised in Ladue) is its sharp humor and dazzling writing. Smart without being stuffy, incisive without being pedantic, Ferriss' exploration of St. Louis' Veiled Prophet Ball is a must-read for anyone interested in the city's history and ongoing class struggle. As a Veiled Prophet Maid in the early 1970s, Ferriss found herself torn between familial obligations (the VP Ball meant everything to her father) and social responsibility (she attended college at Berkeley, where her worldview shifted dramatically). Unveiling the Prophet reaches across decades to reveal an arcane society's dark secrets, to explore racial and economic injusticesand to tell one hell of a good tale. This is one of the best books of the year, period.