ARC Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Posted September 24, 2018 by Madalyn || 8 Comments

ARC Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri ManiscalcoEscaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by JIMMY Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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 received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s no secret that the Stalking Jack the Ripper series has quickly won its way into my heart. So, naturally, I was incredibly excited when an ARC of the third installment in the series, Escaping from Houdini, showed up on my doorstep. However, while Escaping From Houdini was a fun read, it felt significantly less cleverly-crafted than the first two books in the series.

Escaping From Houdini picks up shortly after Hunting Prince Dracula left off. We follow Audrey Rose, Thomas, and company aboard the RMS Etruria as they travel from London to New York City to continue their work in forensics. The Etruria has hired a carnival to provide nightly entertainment for its passengers, but things take a turn when elaborately-staged murders of guests begin to occur and seem to be connected to the carnival.

As always, I enjoyed spending time inside Audrey Rose’s head. She’s such a relatable heroine. However, a love triangle appeared in this book and messed with my ship, and I was NOT a fan. I couldn’t understand Audrey Rose’s infatuation with Mephistopholes, the master of the Moonlight Carnival. She makes a bargain with him that I felt was a bit out of character for her– normally, Audrey Rose thinks things through thoroughly before rushing into a decision, but in this case, she made the bargain without considering all the possible repercussions. I hated seeing the hurt Audrey Rose caused Thomas in this book. I ship them SO hard, but after the way she treated him during this story, he kinda deserves better, honestly. We got a few romantic moments in this story, but there were significantly less than I would have liked or expected.

I think part of the reason I feel so lukewarm about Escaping From Houdini lies in the fact that I just don’t like circus books. I never enjoy reading about carnivals or circus performers in the first place, and this book didn’t really bring anything new to the table that could persuade me otherwise. If you do like books with circus settings, I think you’ll definitely appreciate this book! I did, however, like the cruise ship setting. I wish it had been a bit more prevalent in the story, even. It’s such a unique setting, especially in YA.

I also felt like the writing in Escaping From Houdini was a bit clunky. I kept getting pulled out of the story when I stumbled across oddly-phrased passages, or passages that just didn’t seem to match Audrey Rose’s voice, which readers have grown to know over the course of two books already. Maybe some of this will be fixed in editing??? Or maybe a lot of this was just me? In any case, the writing felt choppy and kind of… hasty.

I will say, the murder mystery had me intrigued, and I was kept guessing the entire time. After the reveal, I realized that all the pieces had been in front of me the entire time and I just completely failed to put them together, but while I was reading, the mystery really captured me.

Overall, I absolutely recommend this book for pre-established fans of the Stalking Jack books. Since the books in this series are technically companion novels, you can read this one without reading the first two, though I’d still recommend reading them in order. Even though Escaping From Houdini lost a bit of the magic of the first two books for me, personally, I still plan to continue the series and can’t wait to see what these characters get up to next.

EDIT: I just found out the ARC has a different ending than the finished copy, so I plan to get my hands on a copy so I can read the new ending and see if that changes anything about my feelings!

Have you read any of the Stalking Jack the Ripper books? What did you think of this sequel?

About Kerri Maniscalco

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

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8 responses to “ARC Review: Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

  1. The ARC has a different ending?? wtfffff. I’ll be honest, I felt no excitement to pick up my ARC of this book so I don’t know when/if I’ll ever get around to it. I really adored the first and enjoyed the second well enough, but the combo of a ship and circus is just too far beyond my interest level. I also hate that there’s a new love interest, especially hearing that she treats Thomas poorly from your review. Hopefully the 4th book ends things on a high note, because I feel like this series just declines in quality with every installment.

    …wow, I didn’t mean for this to become SO negative, lol.

  2. Yes, re: your edit! I opted not to read the ARC because of the ending change and when I talked to Kerri at her NYC event, she said that the ARC was her 3rd or 4th draft and the published version is her 7th draft so she’s glad people had waited. I’m curious if you’d have a different opinion if you waited!

  3. Sorry to hear this one wasn’t as much of a hit as the previous books were for you. The fact there may be a different ending in the finished copy is definitely a good reason to get the finished one ASAP. That’s one issue with ARCs, they’re great but it’s always important to remember some of the issues you have with it (like clunky writing and small stuff like that) may get fixed in the finished copy so as great it at generating buzz for a new release we have to remember not to get too critical of smaller things. If they’re in the finished copy that’s a whole other issue.

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