Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) 
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Pages: 416
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Reviews for book 1 & book 2

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?

I thought Stalking Jack the Ripper was just okay when I read it before publication in 2016. I didn't expect to give the rest of a series a chance, but had a change of heart and ended up really enjoying Hunting Prince Dracula earlier this year. Of course, I had to read Escaping From Houdini and was lucky enough to get an ARC from a friend! I'm not sure what changed for me between the first book and the other two, but the series definitely got better for me.

Escaping From Houdini follows Audrey Rose and Thomas onto a luxury ocean liner on the way to New York and into a world of mystery and magic. There's a new serial killer and a new mystery to solve and, as usual, it's not who you'd expect. I really enjoyed the relationship between Audrey Rose and Thomas in this book. It was interesting to see their relationship a bit more mature and how they withstood their first real tests as a couple.

Speaking of, Mephistopheles was easily my favorite character in Escaping From Houdini! He was mysterious and handsome and a bit swoon-worthy. I loved the way he challenged Audrey Rose and brought out a different side of her. This book does feel like it has a bit of a love triangle, but I found it totally realistic. It isn't uncommon at all for a relationship to be tested by outside forces and I can totally see the temptation of Mephistopheles as the tall, dark, and handsome mysterious stranger. I would love to read an entire book about him!

There are other new important characters here as well. Audrey Rose's cousin Liza was a fun addition to the crew and it was nice to have another woman around. Her relationship with Houdini was fascinating and I would definitely read their book as well! Houdini, surprisingly, isn't a huge presence in this book, but I did enjoy the few times he was on the page. His death-defying acts were particularly fun to read about!

But let's talk murder mystery. While I think I enjoyed the setting of the castle in Hunting Prince Dracula best, this was a close second. I've always had a fear of being stuck on a ship with nowhere to escape and this really played to that fear. It was also very strange that the cruise just went on as usual despite people being killed daily. It just didn't seem very believable. That being said, the murderer just didn't inspire the terror that I'd hoped they would. Their motives were a bit iffy for me and I'm not sure all of their actions made sense. Still, the mystery kept me guessing and I was mildly surprised when the mask came off.

I really enjoyed Escaping From Houdini and I'm glad I continued the series! There are definitely flaws with this book over the previous one, but the carnival and ship setting made it a fun ride anyway. As far as the Stalking Jack the Ripper series goes, this one falls to the middle of the pack. If you enjoyed the first two, this will probably be a good read for you also!