I devoured this book in one night, literally. I read this book nonstop from 12am to 6am, and now it’s 7:30am and I’m sleep deprived but so ready to talk about this book.
ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI – ★★★★
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 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 don’t understand why the Goodreads ratings are so low for this, because I actually loved the atmosphere of EFH? It’s the magical, fever dream kind of world that reminds me of Caraval by Stephanie Garber; but is also deeply rooted in reality, because this series is all about how science can explain seemingly magical occurrences. This was definitely not as creepy as HPD, and focuses on lovey dovey romance (and some cringy banter) for most of the book. I still really loved it though, despite its flaws, because I’m too much of a scaredy-cat for true mystery/thriller.
WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DECIDED TO NAME THE LOVE TRIANGLE ADDITION “MEPHISTOPHELES”??? Like yes it means “demon” but did we really need a long, complicated, and impOSSIBLE TO MEMORIZE name for a character that I desperately wanted to like? Also, can we please notice how he is literally the clone of Thomas. Dark hair, brooding yet charming personality, rOcK hArD aBs, and family issues? And how do both of these cool, composed gentlemen decide to simp for and flirt incessantly with Audrey Rose, when there are perfectly good ladies everywhere (ahem, Anishaa deserved better!!)? Conclusion: They are the same person, except Mephjdhfsh (bold of you to assume that I can spell) has curly hair. Also, Mephistopheles looks like a keysmash anyways.
As well, I just want to say: this book has a compulsory YA love triangle trope, which I’m not the biggest fan of because the female protagonist never makes up her mind, but I can’t decide between them either? I don’t blame Audrey Rose for that, since they’re both really cool people (well, pretty much the same person except Mephistopheles is ~morally grey~), but it was rude to string one of them along, especially since apparently Audrey Rose and Thomas are betrothed now? I didn’t really understand that at the beginning, since I just thought that they started courting formally. I think Mephistopheles is a great backup if Thomas ever decides to leave (unlikely, but it would be an interesting plot point to discover, since Thomas is always the faithful one), but Cressworth is just too adorable to break up. But at the same time, I feel like Audrey Rose would have been able to learn mechanics and other cool things from Mephistopheles, while Thomas and her have the same profession.
PLOT – Kind of spoilers? Not very important ones though.
Mephistopheles’ side of the bargain was… not great? What did he plan to hold as leverage after Audrey Rose shows Houdini’s letter to Liza?? Because then it really doesn’t matter if he tells Liza that Audrey Rose tried to break them up… so Audrey Rose could theoretically just not follow through? I think Mephistopheles should be a bit smarter with that, since he apparently likes to spill his backstory to a random girl that he met 5 days ago who suspects him to be a murderer. Oh and that’s another thing: People apparently just really like to either spill their entire life sob story to Audrey Rose with the slightest prompt, or hole themselves up in their rooms for the entire book, which Audrey Rose then brUSHES ASIDE FOR SOME REASON even though that’s clearly sketchy. Also also, I’m just disappointed that Houdini wasn’t a bigger part in this book. It’s literally NAMED “Escaping From Houdini” yet the only one who escapes from Houdini is Liza?? The chance was there to make the title make sense, but Kerri didn’t take it.
As well, I didn’t love how every trick and plot twist was described as a “sleight of hand”. Ot was cool the first few times, but it got old very quickly. The Sherlock-syle mystery element of the previous books didn’t appear very often in this book. Instead, we got some romantic deliberation between two identical boys. But then again, I still loved this book so maybe that says something about my standards.
The cruise ship’s Moonlight Carnival is truly magical. I loved the descriptions of the dinner hall and the practice studio (also club, when spirits get down). I did find it weird, however, that there were booths on the deck (when Thomas buys a funnel cake), which I’ve never seen (and doesn’t seem plausible) on a cruise line. But I mean… You do you RMS Etruria.
“I shook my head. ‘You’re really charming, aren’t you?’
‘That would be Prince Charming to you, Miss Wadsworth.'”
This line is the MOST CHEESY THING I HAVE READ IN A LONG TIME, and I’m just so mad at it?? The term “Prince Charming” was first mentioned in The Picture of Dorian Gray, where it was used ironically. This book takes place in January 1889, which is before that term would even be invented. I’m just really nit-picky, but still, this sentence just sounds too modern to my sleep-deprived mind.
“Whose sword is bigger? You or Jian’s?”
This is set in the Victorian Era, which really irks me since AR and Thomas and all the other young characters break social rules all the time yet never face repercussions, not even to their reputation. Whenever Audrey rose does or says something improper, I can’t help but to cringe inside because it’s just such a strange thing for a girl of her station at the time to do/say. Worldbuilding who?
When you read this whole review, I probably sound really negative. But I adored this book, I swear! I loved Mephistopheles a lot, lies and all. Did I cry when Thomas discovered Audrey Rose and Mephisto in the dead girl’s room? Well… yes bECAUSE I CANT STAND CONFRONTATIONS OKAY,, AND I CANT CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO IDENTICAL CHARACTERS WHO ARE EXACTLY MY TYPE- *cries in simp* but aNYWAYS, I adored this book and I really want to see Mephisto come back in the next book because he has such an intriguing character! But I’m still salty about how Kerri Maniscalco did him dirty with that name-
ANYWAYS, IN CONCLUSION: I LOVE THIS BOOK BECAUSE I LOVE THIS LOVE TRIANGLE BECAUSE IM A SIMP. *mic drop*