Excuse me while I do a happy dance, because this isn’t the final book in the series! I was absolutely expecting the series to come to an end at the conclusion of Escaping from Houdini, but I was wrong. According to Goodreads, book four will be the last, so we’re getting one more instalment, people!
Check out my review of Hunting Prince Dracula to find out what I thought of the previous two books in the series (I realised I never reviewed Stalking Jack the Ripper whilst writing my review for book two, but you can see how many stars I gave it!).
Also, spoilers ahead for books one and two, so stop right here if you haven’t read them yet. Seriously, don’t read any further.
TL;DR Audrey Rose and Thomas jump on a cruise liner to New York and their next case, but as per usual, murder and mystery follow them at every step. Entertained each evening by the Moonlight Carnival, guests begin dropping like flies in increasingly gruesome and theatrical ways. Can Wadsworth and Cresswell solve the murders before the killer’s grand finale?
This book had one of my biggest pet peeve tropes as a central plot point, but as you can see, that didn’t stop me loving it. (I won’t say which trope for spoilers’ sake, but if you feel the same, let me know in the comments!)
It starts off with Audrey Rose and Thomas completely smitten with each other, looking forward to a pleasant transatlantic cruise, chaperoned by Audrey’s uncle Dr. Jonathan Wadsworth and Mrs Harvey (and her notorious “travelling tonic”). Well, if you’ve been paying attention to this series so far, you won’t be surprised to hear that almost immediately people start being murdered.
Entertaining the guests every evening on board the ship is the Moonlight Carnival, a rag tag crew of contortionists, cartomancers, knife-throwers and fire-eaters, lead by a mysterious, masked man who calls himself Mephistopheles. If you weren’t lucky enough to read Faust at school, Mephistopheles is the name of the devil in the classic German novel. The ringmaster is a charming, manipulative and arrogant man with designs on our Audrey Rose, much to Thomas’s chagrin.
Only one member of the carnival doesn’t wear a mask at all times, and that’s the eponymous Harry Houdini. Unlike the rest of the performers who all seem to be hiding from someone or something, Houdini comes across as a fame-hungry young man. Does that make him a murderer, though? Or could one of his travelling carnival companions be hiding a dark past behind their glittery facade?
Like in the previous books, the stakes are pretty high for our leading lady, drawing her family and friends into the heart of the danger yet again. But none more so than herself, and in the end Audrey Rose goes through something that will change her forever.
I loved this book. I whipped through it at breakneck speed and it’s my new favourite of the series (I know I said that about Hunting Prince Dracula, because boarding school setting! But that’s been trumped by cruise ship setting. Sorry not sorry). Book four, you’ve got a lot to live up to!
I gave Escaping from Houdini 4.5 stars, there’s room for improvement – that flipping annoying trope, to be precise – but it’s such an enjoyable romp on the high seas. I still love Audrey Rose, she’s not perfect, but who of us is? And Thomas is just a dreamboat, flirting shamelessly with her one minute, and telling her he’ll never hold her back the next.
If you’ve enjoyed books one and two, or you’re just a fan of YA historical fiction, you’ll love this book. It’s full of illusions, romance, murder and kissing. What more could you want?