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Houdini, The Moonlight Carnival and Murders. 🛳️🃏🌙 | a spoiler-free review.

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Firstly, I want to say that I was more than excited to read Escaping from Houdini after having read the first two books in the series earlier this year. This series and especially because of its characters Audrey Rose and Thomas became one of my all time favourites so quickly so, it should not be a big suprise to tell you that the third book was an anticipated release for me and I was waiting and waiting to get my hands on it until I finally got to pick up my paperback edition at the bookstore. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the beautiful tarot cards designed by Phantomrin as a pre-order gift since I am not living in the US but you should definitely take a look at Kerri Maniscalco’s Instagram account if you want to see how they look like! It’s too bad I don’t have them. They would have been nice to display next to my copies.

There’s also a Double Review I have here on my blog for the first two books in the series if you want to check that out and assure yourself that I have been waiting these couple of months for only this sequel to come out : Double Review: SJTR and HPD by Kerri Maniscalco 💉🖤 and definitely read about this hilarious idea Kerri Maniscalco had on Twitter if you missed it!


The Sypnosis:

After having solved the murder cases of Jack the Ripper and Prince Dracula, forensic student Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation Thomas Cresswell are on their way to America while being on board the RMS Etruria, a passenger ship with a mysterious magical performance show called the Moonlight Carnival. But what seems like a dream-like show at first evolves into a terrible nightmare and it appears as if death has been following the two apprentices because young women begin missing and horrifying murders happen on board. So, it is up to both Audrey Rose and Thomas  to solve the case, find out who the murderer is and stop the slayings before more passengers become victims without having reached their destination. The RMS Etruria becomes a prison with no chance to escape and nowhere to flee…

“So, I inquire you once more. which will you lose before the week is through? Your heart? Your head? Perhaps,” he drawled, face cast in shadows as the chandeliers dimmed slowly before winking out, “you will lose your life, your very soul, to this magical traveling show.”

After having walked through the streets of Victorian London and attending a forensic class in Romania, this time the setting of the book is a passenger ship en route to America. To be more precise the setting includes the first class deck, its promenade, several cabins and of course the main deck with the enchanting carnival show every evening. While I did REALLY enjoy this new setting with the sea always close by and the performance show, it is the foggy streets of London and the paths of the castle in the first two books I prefer reading about. However, deciding which of the three settings I really liked more was difficult to say and I believe that I am not the only one having struggled with the thought.

The performances of the Moonlight Carnival are amazing!! I am sure everyone who likes circus-themed books will enjoy this books same goes to fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series. There are also A LOT OF NEW CHARACTERS introduced. Most of them are members of the carnival, each having their own magical ability. Fire-breather, Fortune-teller, Trapeze artists. Just to name a few talents. I would have liked to get to know them a bit better but since the Moonlight Carnival was such a big troupe with many backstories (most of them tragic and sad) I think that the author already did a very good job. Without going into any spoilers, Houdini is introduced as well as the King of Cuffs and it was really enjoyable to read about this character who is not “just fictional”. Kerri’s author note at the end of the book was really interesting to read as well since it’s giving more information and I caught myself doing some research about Houdini as well.

“Truth is often compared to a blade,” I said. “‘I question those who marvel when it pricks.”

Audrey Rose Wadsworth– Talking about characters, it was such a pleasure to read everything from Audrey Rose’s POV again. I have been liking her since the very first time she is introduced in Stalking Jack the Ripper and I only can repeat myself with saying that she is such a brave, smart and extremely likeable main character. Probably one of my favourite female characters ever. However, there was something about her behaviour in this book that made me question EVERYTHING and I was not that fond of it. She was insecure and had many doubts at times but I think that is totally fine!

“Removing intestines before luncheon is all right, but clowns are where your limits ends?’ he asked. “You never cease to amaze me, Wadsworth. What if I dressed up like one and knocked at your door later? Do you think you’d faint into my ruffle-sleeved arms? Reviving you might be worth the makeup and silly costume.'”

✷ Thomas Cresswell – I think that with every book he does get sassier and sassier but maybe that’s just a feeling. In Escaping from Houdini you really got to see how he went through his character development. He’s definitely not the arrogant student we know from the first book but developed into a kind and understanding partner when it comes to solving crime. Thomas did an excellent job of letting Audrey Rose choose her own path and freedom. It was too bad he didn’t get all the “screen time” but  it was something different to the series and it wasn’t as bad as I got told by various of people on Goodreads.

“I politely disagree, Miss Wadsworth. There are many ways to assist people. Laughter and distraction are sometimes things people need in conjuction with medical diagnoses and treatments.”

Mephistopheles – also called “Mephisto” or “the Devil” is the ringmaster and boss of the performance crew. (It’s obviously not his real name.) He is a new character introduced in this third book of the series and the first things that you’ll notice are that 1) he’s self-regarding, 2) obsessed with the big show and his outfits and 3) incredibly dramatic. And, in my opinion he’s also the reason why Audrey Rose does a lot of things she normally would have never done. It’s the ringmaster who firstly created a love triangle in this series (I think we all agree that Blackburn does not count). I was about to feel really anxious when I found out about the love triangle but I see that it was necessary in a way for both Audrey Rose and Thomas to understand their feelings for each other. And, to be honest, I didn’t mind this love triangle though I am a big Cressworth fan. You won’t get disappointed

Fun fact:  The name “Mephistopheles” fits very well since there are also some midnight bargains going on. It’s well thought-out indeed.

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✧ SJTR, HPD or EFH? Which one was better and why? 

To be honest, SJTR and HPD I prefer but don’t get me wrong! EFH was an equally fast paced and enjoyable read. But there were a few aspects in the first two books in the series that were just better to me. The setting for example. Or how the cases were solved and explained at the end. Likewise, EFH had great elements to it such as the acts, Mrs Harvey correcting Thomas and offering her traveling tonic (I love that chaperone!!) and more of Audrey Rose, her uncle and Thomas inspecting the incidents.

Without any spoilers (!!), please but was it obvious who the murderer/murderess was?

While I think that it was pretty obvious and predictable who the murderers in SJTR and HPD are, I believe that it won’t be that easy for you this time. I had many assumptions and struggled at time so, it was not suprising to me that the reveal of who had done all these murders was a bit of a shock…? Of course this may differ from person to person. Maybe you’re a better detective than I am. Probably.

Rating? Is EFH a new all time favorite?

SJTR and HPD were 5-star reads for me. My rating system only includes those books to “all time favorites” that have a 5-star rating. Considering all this, I am going to put EFH into a 4-star, maybe even a 4.5-star rating (though I usually try to not give 1/2 stars) because I enjoyed the first two books a bit more.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Expectations for the fourth and (unfortunately) final book in the series?

I know that I have just finished reading the third book but I am already looking forward to the release of SJTR4 because I have still so many questions about EFH. There are some things that remained unsolved and I am dying to know what these things are really about. On the other hand from what I have understood, the book coming out next year is the final one for this series?! That makes me extremely sad. Who would have thought this series could come to end?  I could read a ton of books about Audrey Rose and Thomas and I probably still wouldn’t be tired of their wit and sarcasm. And, I am sure I wouldn’t be the only one. There has to be some bonus content/novellas!!!

I have no ideas for the title or the person it could include in it. Equally, I have no assumptions where the story could be set. America? England, again? A new country? France would be funny, I believe! The cover is not out yet as well but I think that Kerri has something good for the ending planned, at least I hope so!


“Magic is science. It’s simply a fancier term for showing people the impossible is attainable.”

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