“Be cautious with who you give your heart to. And be more wary of those who seek to steal it.”
– Kerri Maniscalco
Title: Escaping From Houdini
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #3
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.
But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea.
It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?
Escaping from Houdini is the third installment of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and is by far my favorite book so far. This book follows Audrey and Thomas aboard their week long journey on the RMS Etruria to New York where something absolutely devious is taking place. Should be relaxing and fun right? Especially with a traveling circus aboard and a young escape artist trying to make a name for himself. Right of the bat there is a murder their first dinner during the show. While the mysterious and devilishly handsome ringmaster promised a lot of things about the show, murder was not one. Every night offers surprise, and not the good kind, and it’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to decipher the tarot and other clues left behind at the crime scenes before they reach port and unleash another devil into New York city.
This book was fast-paced and in a much shorter time frame than the previous two books, but instead of taking away from the novel it only added to it. It was a bit chaotic and frenzied, like the traveling circus aboard the ship, and only added to the sense of mystery and who-done it atmosphere I found lacking in Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula. The ship became a kind of personal hell with danger lurking around every corner, leaving those aboard to wonder who they could trust and what was real or a slight of hand.
The Moonlight Carnival was fabulous. Everything about it was illusion made to look and feel very real. Mephistopheles was a great ringmaster who believed in his show and the power of science/engineering her used to create the mysteries on the stage. It was assumed the murderer was one of the performers which created the perfect excuse for Audrey Rose to go undercover with Mephistopheles (I just called him M that name is way too long) and get close to not only him but the other performers as well. I think the coolest part about all this is the research Maniscalco put into the magic aspect of the show, pulling back the curtain on the magic for Audrey Rose and thus us. It was fun to learn how some of the classic tricks worked or how they could be enhanced. I’m very interested in tarot and there was a lot of that in this book, most directly related to the murders. Even after spending time with the strange array of characters I, like Audrey Rose, had trouble deciphering just who the murderer could be.
I finished Hunting Prince Dracula quite a while ago and it took me such a long time to pick up this book because of the onslaught of negative reviews I saw about it on Goodreads. It seemed like people who were meh about the first two books loved this one while those who loved the first two absolutely hated this one. There were complaints about the love triangle, how Audrey Rose didn’t spend enough time with Thomas, and a few even suggested that the relationship at the end was in a bit of a jumble. Makes you want to pick it up right? I didn’t see any of it like that though. Audrey Rose grows up and really comes into herself in this book. She’s still a bit shaken after events in SJTR but knows her choice to follow in the footsteps of her uncle is just what she wants to do. There is a bit of a triangle but only in the sense that she’s asking herself if she genuinely loves Thomas and wants to be with with or is she only with him because she believe she’s all that’s available to her and her weird ways. It was relatable. As for the not spending enough time with him I think that in past books we have a longer time frame and thus are shown the highlights versus this book which takes place over a week. It’s a more day to day view of their lives and even so they spent quite a bit of time together during the day. It was her nights that were a tad occupied and even that was understandable. As for those that say the relationship between Audrey Rose and Thomas was a bit of a mess at the end, I don’t want to spoil it, but I just didn’t see it that way at all especially after reading The Dark Prince Novella. This all just goes to show that sometimes you have to make up your own mind about a book versus listening to the reviews of others (I say as you’re reading my review).
This series has only gotten better with every book written. It’s been amazing to see the growth in Maniscalco’s writing over the past three. Thomas has been one of my favorite characters to read. He started off so cold and just like the automaton and dark prince society had penned him as, but now while being smart and able to insert himself into the mind of a killer he is warm and kind and so sweet on Audrey Rose. They’ve grown a lot individually but also together. He’s always there to support her dreams while also not holding her back from anything she may want. They might be one of my favorite couples in literature and I’m so excited to see what comes next not only mystery/crime wise for the two, but for their future.