Title: Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Pub. Date: September 18, 2018
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?
This WON’T BE A SPOILER FREE REVIEW.
I wanted to make this a spoiler free review, but I’ve been struggling to write it for days now and I have FEELINGS about this book and they’re quite rant-y.
Like always, I loved this book and I’m annoyed at myself for taking so long to read it. Audrey Rose and Thomas are two of my favorite characters ever created, and I love their chemistry and personalities, but I’m going to start this review off with a yelling confession.
IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE EPILOGUE, I WOULD HAVE HAD TO DISOWN AUDREY ROSE AS A FAVORITE CHARACTER BECAUSE SHE MADE ME SO MAD AND SO ANGRY.
Okay, now that’s off my chest, I can continue. Take from that what you will, but I promise it spoils nothing, because we all know that characters make us mad from time to time. It’s nothing new.
This book picks up right where Hunting Prince Dracula left off, with Audrey Rose and Thomas on their way to America. This book is a roller coaster of twists and turns of death, intrigue and dismay. As always. Audrey and Thomas are haunted by death and it’s up to them to figure out what is actually going on.
I’m going to move onto the rant-y / spoiler section of this review, so this is your final warning.
I’m not lying when I say I actually really enjoyed this book, but I honestly do think that I’ll love anything Kerri Mansicalco writes pertaining to these two characters. But I can also honestly say that this book angered me. I raged at it. I raged and raged and raged at Audrey Rose, who I nearly disowned. Do I think the Epilogue erases her of her treatment of Thomas? Nope. And her realization at the end of the book felt a little contrived.
I went into this book expecting the Audrey and Thomas to use their abilities to solve a murder, but Thomas was woefully missing throughout most of the book. It was like he was an afterthought, because Mephistopheles had Audrey’s attention.
Yes, he was charming. Yes, he was interesting, but hell, he was SO annoying. I didn’t get Audrey’s fascination of him. I get it, you’re 17, and Thomas is the only guy who’s ever really caught your attention, but damn, Audrey, you treated him like crap.
God, just writing the review for this book is bringing back all my feelings of rage. I wish I could reach into the book and freaking shake Audrey out of her stupidity.
Legit, this whole review could be summed up with * aggravated yelling into the void * because Thomas Cresswell deserved so much better in this book.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning of this book. The first chapter was brilliant, opening with a murder and the atmosphere. I listened to the audiobook and it gave me chills. It was nice to see how everyone interacted with each other, and the tiny stolen moments between Thomas and Audrey were wonderful.
Then the murder and the suspects and enter Mephistopheles. The ringmaster of the Moonlight Carnival and the prime suspect. Audrey feels kind of drawn to him and his secretive air.
Then each night to follow, there’s another death, and none of them can seem to make sense of why and how they were happening.
Now, this is when I expected for Audrey and Thomas to start sleuthing around, quipping at each other as they tried to solve the murder. Instead some secrets come to life, like Audrey’s cousin having seemingly disappeared only to be a performing in the Moonlight Carnival. Audrey is furious with her cousin, and for someone who is all about having her own freedom and not being put in a cage or being owned by someone, she is quick to do the opposite to her cousin.
And then you have Mephistopheles – who I’m going to name M for the remainder of this review – and he did nothing but put Audrey in compromising positions and used her interest, infatuation, stupidity against her to woo her. He knew exactly what he was doing.
He offers her a deal, I’ll help you if you help me, BUT you can’t tell Thomas any of it, otherwise the deal is off”.
For someone so freaking smart and intuitive, Audrey was pretty dumb this book. I get why she made the deal, but she shouldn’t have, and she should’ve told Thomas. And she should have told Thomas, once Liza had been told about Houdini.
To me, it would have made perfect sense if he’d been behind it all, to drive a wedge between Cresswell and her, but he wasn’t and it just cheapened everything, and nearly ruined her and Thomas.
*also, side note, I kind of don’t get why the book is called Escaping from Houdini when he isn’t the antagonist? Not really? I mean, when you think of the first two, they were actually dealing with Jack the Ripper, and then the murders in the second where made to look like a vampire – aka Dracula – was killing them, but Houdini wasn’t the one behind the murders and was just as much of a victim because the murder affected his performances. I guess this one just doesn’t make as much sense to me as the others, unless we’re talking about Liza who leaves him. But I don’t know.
For a while, Thomas just assumed that Audrey is doing what she has to, in order to get information and while he’s not entirely comfortable with it, he trusts Audrey. It’s not until M starts really trying to break the two of them up that Thomas starts acting betrayed and hurt AS HE SHOULD BECAUSE HE DESVERED SO MUCH BETTER THAN AUDREY’S WISHY-WASHY FEELINGS.
We’re just going to fast forward to the end, when they figure out who is the murderer, and Audrey decides to jump in front of a knife and nearly dies.
If you could only see my face right now.
Thomas is there, holding her, telling her to stay away, being there for her in a way that she hadn’t been for him the whole book. He loves her, so much so, that when she survives that he’s willing to walk away if she wants to be with M.
I volunteer to give Thomas all the hugs. I will literally take him if Audrey doesn’t want him.
I would have been heartbroken if Thomas had actually walked away, because I do like the two of them together, but he’d been used and played and hurt deeply by Audrey and had every right to leave her.
And I get it. It can take something as major as nearly dying to clarify feelings but COME ON. I don’t think there’s such thing as the Perfect Guy, but Thomas complimented her to beautifully, and they were meant to be together.
But Audrey has come to the realization that she loves Thomas and never wants to be without him and is ashamed of her actions and when he leaves, she breaks, but then he comes back.
I’m glad I read this, and it doesn’t break the series for me. I’m disappointed in it, sure, but maybe now that they’ve been through this test of their relationship, they’ll be stronger than ever. I have high hopes for Capturing the Devil and I can’t wait to be back with these characters.
September is so far away.