Review of Escaping from Houdini

November 21, 2018 Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review of Escaping from HoudiniEscaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 416
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Goodreads three-half-stars

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

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 strange and 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?

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“Truth is a blade. Brutal and ice cold. It cuts. Sometimes when spoken carelessly it even scars.”

Escaping from Houdini (Book #3 in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series) was one of my most anticipated books of the entire year. I absolutely adored the first two – which, if you haven’t read and have the slightest interest in doing so STOP READING because there will be spoilers for those two books – and so I was delighted to find out that the original planned trilogy was being expanded to four. Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell…I can’t get enough of them, or the deliciously creepy situations their forensic passion leads them into! That said, I have to admit this book was my least favorite of the series so far. You can see my review of the first, Stalking Jack the Ripper, and the second, Hunting Prince Dracula, by clicking the linked titles!

Can’t help it, this is what I thought of through the first few chapters. 😛

I really do hate to say it, but in some ways it feels completely unnecessary…like why spend an entire book on the trans-oceanic voyage from Europe to America? I understand it makes for a really creepy atmostphere, when people are being MURDERED and you know for absolutely certain they are on the ship with you and no way to get off of it in the middle of the ocean…but still. Anyway, maybe that’s just me, and I’m butt-hurt because I was really looking forward to seeing what they did in America and also seeing how the series ended.

//SMALL POTENTIAL SPOILERS for character-type stuff, not plot//

My People

Other than the maybe-not-necessary part of my feelings on the book…OMG WADSWORTH. What happened?!? Where did the stalwart, strong-minded girl I knew go? What…just what. Here, maybe a screenshot of my actual agony as I read will help:

Not only was she suddenly needing smelling salts, but the way she treated Thomas…I really struggle to accept that it was justified. In the grand scheme of things, I understand why she did it. She put trying to find the killer and figure out what was going on ahead of her own feelings, but in the process I really feel she treated Thomas as if he was just an automaton without any kind of emotion. It felt like a kick to the stomach. And, as we all remember (riiiiight, you did read the other books), for all his cold, calculating, analytical brain cells, our boy does actually have a heart a few fibers of insecurity running through it. Now, in an author note at the end, Kerri Maniscalco actually addresses this entire issue, and WHY Wadsworth acted the way she did. I get it. I’m just not completely on board with it and I feel like it quite possibly forever altered her relationship with Thomas. Can relationships recover from setbacks? Absolutely. Do they? Sometimes. So I guess we will just have to wait and see in book four…HOW am I going to wait another year??

Plot

“This isn’t the first time you’ve removed a cravat, is it?”
“It would be the first time I used it to strangle someone, though.”

The mystery aspect of this one wasn’t as hair-raising as either one of the other two books. Enjoyable, yes, and I didn’t have a very good theory until about 65-75% of the way through the book (perhaps because I was so hung up over Wadsworth and Cresswell’s woes). It was very flashy and atmospheric but not all that exciting. After the first couple of bodies you kinda/sorta knew what to expect.

The “show” aspect was interesting and really gave a different flavor to the setting than you would expect from a ship. It was very circus-y and all the minor characters introduced created ALL kinds of red herrings and hangups.

Things That Did Surprise Me

“Be cautious with who you give your heart to. And be even more wary of those who wish to steal it.”

First, totally did not see the cousin thing coming. That was intriguing and really added another layer to the story. Next, do not go into this expecting Houdini to play a large part. The title is somewhat misleading. Third, WHO THE HELL is this circus master dude and WTF is he playing at (this question is mostly answered by the end but geez I hated this guy’s guts for most of the book). Fourth, I still adore Mrs. Harvey. I don’t think I mentioned her in my other reviews, but she is just the absolute BEST with her “nightcaps” and look-the-other way style of chaperoning.

Overall, I’m giving Escaping from Houdini 3.5 stars. I really wanted to give it 4 but it just bummed me out too much, between the “meh” mystery factor and the “ACK!!” relationship factor.

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three-half-stars

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