I loved it. That’s all I’m going to begin by saying.
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?
Now in actual fact, I didn’t believe this book lived up to the standard of the mysteries laid out by its predecessors. It lacked the brilliant writing of Hunting Prince Dracula, but oh my gosh, this book was so much of fun.
Let us see, new characters. Or more specifically, our ringmaster Mephistopheles. I know there have been a lot of mixed feelings about him, but I loved his mystery, intrigue and (subjectively) good fashion sense. I truly hope we get to see him again, as he was such a complex character and I think Maniscalco had only scratched the surface of his potential. I did think he and Thomas were a little too alike in terms of their personality, and this was particularly evident during the scenes where they spoke to each other.
Speaking of our dear Mr Thomas Cresswell, there wasn’t nearly enough of him! And on top of that, we hardly got to see him in action solving the mystery alongside Audrey Rose. However, one thing I do wish to emphasise is his continuous respect of all of Audrey Rose’s decisions, which is something to be admired.
Listen, I’m not usually one for love triangles (or too much of romance in general). I do think Maniscalco did an amazing job with the one between Thomas/Audrey Rose/Mephisto. I thought it was cleverly done and incredibly entertaining to read. It was utterly heartbreaking at times, especially whenever Thomas said anything to Audrey Rose regarding Mephisto. He just seemed to go along and accept it, and I think he deserved much more than that.
The setting of the carnival coupled with the aesthetic of the time period really worked and helped to add an extra layer of entertainment. The killer reveal did fall a bit flat, as I believed anyone from the carnival would’ve been too obvious a choice. Albeit being in the title, I feel like Houdini didn’t have enough relevance in terms of the mystery. I am anticipating the reveal of the second killer though, who knows, maybe it was the devil himself?
The ending of the book very nearly destroyed me (i.e. lots of tears), but it was overall satisfying. Escaping from Houdini definitely had its flaws, but it was so enjoyable it didn’t even matter. This book had me utterly hooked and constantly on the edge of my seat.
(I’m going to round up though, so five stars)
Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
“ Normal is overrated. Extraordinary is unforgettable.” – Cassie
“Truth is a blade. Brutal and ice cold. It cuts. Sometimes when spoken carelessly it even leaves scars.” – Mephistopheles
“You cannot live your life following someone else’s rules.” -Mephistopheles