Title: Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Published: September 18, 2018
Read as: US Hardcover
Average Goodreads rating: 4.15
My rating: 3
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? (from Goodreads)
When I read the first two books of this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula, I must say that while I found them in the realm of enjoyable that I wasn’t terribly impressed. I had even pondered giving up the series altogether and moving on to greener pastures. However, when the third book came out and I learned that a dark, freakish carnival was involved my interest was once again piqued. Then, reviews started rolling in saying that Audrey’s dear Thomas was done a dirty in this book.
Let’s face it, I am not a fan of Thomas. At. All. I am not ashamed to admit that I picked up this book with more gusto under the impression that Thomas might be treated like the sack of useless man flesh that he is.
I was only somewhat disappointed.
The plot itself of this book was fascinating to me. Audrey, Thomas, and her uncle are aboard a high class ship cruising to America to undertake a new investigation. On board there is a traveling dark carnival headed by the enigmatic Mephistopheles. Under the guise of this Moonlight Carnival, murders begin happening in earnest with the bodies displayed to emulate tarot cards used during the course of the show.
The idea here had me hooked and I was completely on board, especially with Mephistopheles who had my blood burning in every scene. Of course, part of his purpose was to create tension between Audrey Rose and Thomas. Again, I was completely for this and I was hoping that Audrey would dump Thomas’s dull bones for the much more exciting and entertaining Mephistopheles with his elaborate masks and round a bout games of logic and misdirection.
While the basis of the story was first class I’m afraid the execution left something to be desired. There was a great deal of repetition and obvious patterns that made the middle section drag. Carnival show during fancy dinner, staged body discovered, Audrey shoves down her initial panic and reminds herself she is a scientist, body examined, boring bits where she is introspective ensue. This goes on for, what, five bodies I think? Sure, there were a few subplots to keep you interested but they carried the main story more than complimented it.
By around the halfway point I had figured out who the murderer was. This in and of itself was odd because I NEVER guess correctly but upon maybe the second meeting of the character it was painfully obvious. It took a lot of the excitement out of things because I just wanted Audrey to put two and two together already and mop the whole mess up.
In fact, I had initially rated this book 4 stars. I think I am going to lower it to 3. The more and more I type the more irritated I become. The only real saving grace for this book was the thrill of the Moonlight Carnival and even that was sullied by how ridiculous Houdini was. For a book titled Escaping from Houdini he played a very minor roll and made me roll my eyes more often than not.
To sum things up, this book was mildly entertaining but not enough to warrant any praise from me. Most of the characters were dull and predictable and so was the story. And I still hate Thomas.