By Cynthia Bujnicki
Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime Thomas are on route to New York. The week-long voyage comes with a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and as escape artist looking to make a name for himself. However, when the privileged begin to meet theatrical demises, the cruise becomes a floating prison where anyone could be next. Can Audrey solve this mystery before the promised horrifying finale or will she lose more than she bargained with?
What a great novel. Escaping from Houdini is the third in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. This time the around the famed forensic student Ms. Audrey Rose is on her way from home to New York city alongside Thomas and her uncle. However, the weeklong voyage comes with a killer attraction. Someone is killing women of the elite. Once again, the novel has a dark and tantalizing opening that grips the reader and instantly works to put them on edge. Maniscalco pulls the reader in by constructing the perfect eerie atmosphere.
The level of detail, tone, and scene structure all work in tandem seamlessly to lure the reader into the story. There is nothing eerie about a cruise liner in concept, but the addition of the Moonlight Carnival sets up the tone of the story. Just giving them the name “Moonlight Carnival” works to create this almost mystical and dark feeling. The words themselves inspire something dark and sinister, something mysterious for the reader, so it was a clever use of language in the way it helps to set up the plot. Maniscalco uses just enough detail to tell the story, and the reader can bring to life these scenes with their imaginations with ease. Maniscalco sucks the reader in effortlessly, showcasing her talent, in the way she utilizes all these elements to bring the story to life.
Then there is the narrative. Audrey Rose’s mannerisms, her thought process, everything about her comes to life. She is more than just a character in a book, she is this living being, and the reader feels as though they are right beside her as she works in unraveling the mystery around her. Ms. Wadsworth is terrific in the way she moves about the story, taking the details apart, and analyzing. Her little ticks and fears, the vivid language that Maniscalco utilizes to bring this person to life, make Ms. Wadsworth a character the reader not only can relate to but a character worth admiration. She is a young woman pursuing a man’s career, fighting to show the men around her, her worth. Ms. Wadsworth does not falter. Instead, she takes the challenges and meets them head-on, just like with the murder that needs to be solved.
Escaping from Houdini has a fantastic pace, a character worthy of admiration and a story that keeps the reader in the dark and on the edge of their seats. (★★★★☆)