Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Horror, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
You've been warned.
I AM JUST GOING TO PRETEND THAT THIS BOOK NEVER HAPPENED.
I've never been this disappointed or frustrated because of a book. Escaping from Houdini was an insult to my emotions, my sanity, and the very heroes Kerri Maniscalco so lovingly created. It took a tremendous amount of effort to turn the pages, to witness the fall of the characters that always managed to put a smile on my face. My pulse accelerated and I wanted to throw things and ravage and scream and burn the darn book (YES I came this close to committing the most ungodly sacrilege) and get drunk (YES I did stop reading in order to CONSUME ALCOHOL to calm my nerves - and that's from a person who drinks only TWICE a year). Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula were two books I loved, and I can't even begin to describe how upset and aggravated I am from the treatment of what I once thought was the perfect crime solving duet. My expectations tumbled like a tower made of playing cards, and my heart? It was crushed into tiny pieces.
Expectation No. 1: Wadswoth and Cresswell being a team, solving crimes, cutting bloated corpses while bantering and flirting.
↬ Reality: Cresswell's presence was dramatically reduced. Why? Because the author decided to insert an unnecessary, cheap love triangle as a means to test their love or whatever, with the second love interest (hereinafter referred to as S.L.I.) being a copycat of Cresswell, a person of debatable morality who kept provoking the latter and suddenly became the center of Wadsworth's world. Oh, and it gets better. Wadsworth ended up questioning her feelings towards Cresswell, the boy who was also her partner and friend, who was next to her during emotional trauma and tragedies, who constantly supported her and literally worshipped her because of someone she knew for LESS THAN A WEEK, WHOSE FACE SHE HAD NEVER SEEN, who kept staging incidents that compromised Wadsworth's virtue just to spite Cresswell and manipulated her. Wadsworth's excuses for the time she spent with S.L.I. were pathetic; she supposedly struck a deal with S.L.I. for a greater good, but her immaturity, her reckless, childish and self-centered behaviour was an utter disservice to her character and everything she's been through. Somehow her flaws were magnified, her saving graces diminished, even though it's the third book of the series, meaning that her slow but steady growth preceded the events of Escaping from Houdini. Investigating crime scenes without Cresswell? Hiding crucial information and evidence from him? Sneaking out at night with another man, practically cheating? I did not sign up for this. She never talked to him, not even once tried to explain what was going on, but at the same time asked for his unconditional trust. And Cresswell? While he had every right to yell, to be jealous and confront her, he simply sat idly and waited for her to choose. Wadsworth claimed that hurting Cresswell, that brushing him aside or doing something questionable was dictated by her head in order to solve the case, yet only pages later she would ignore the logic she so passionately invoked in order to do things she felt that she needed to do, despite reason. Even her inner musings were inconsistent. She was aboard a vessel plagued by murder and mayhem, and she was focused on S.L.I., the freedom he offered, and acted like a ninny that was guided by her hormones.
The partnership I came to love so affectionately, the two forensic students that complimented each other like two pieces of a puzzle, Cresswell with his marvelous deductive skills and Wadsworth with her instict, was barely there. In its stead, there was S.L.I. who assumed Thomas' role. All I got was lies, deception, and a foolish girl who was blinded by illusions and hurt the people she loved.
Expectation No. 2: Wadsworth advocating feminism.
↬ Reality: Let's break the bubble, folks. Wadsworth is not a feminist. The way I perceive it, feminism is about gender equality, about being treated with respect regardless of sex. It's not about superiority, and it addresses all women. Wadsworth wanted the ability to choose, to make mistakes and learn and take her fate into her own hands.
❝All my life I'd longed for freedom - freedom to pick and choose every detail of my life. To make good decisions and horrible ones. Decisions that would break my heart and remake it ten times over.❞
The problem is, all these principles according to Wasworth applied only to herself. She went behind Liza's back and struck a deal with the devil in an attempt to patronize her, the very thing she hated and fought against. She meddled in Liza's affairs because apparently Wadsworth knew what was best for her, without doing her the courtesy of making her own mistakes. Wadsworth fought for her own right to make horrible decisions, but it seems that Liza was not entitled to the same freedom. And you know what that makes Wadsworth? A self-righteous, dishonest and manipulative HYPOCRITE.
The same goes to the way she behaved around Cresswell; Wadsworth wanted to be treated as an equal, to be appreciated for her mind the same way he was. The thing is that during Escaping from Houdini, she never treated him as her partner. Because it seems that Audrey Rose Wadsworth is an almighty deity who doesn't need anyone (except from S.L.I., who understands her and doesn't want to cage her).
Expectation No. 3: A well-structured criminal case.
↬ Reality: Let's be honest, a book about murders on a luxurious ship entertained by an eerie and wickedly enchanting carnival is bound to be captivating. Kerri Maniscalco succeeded in creating the proper ambience, the sinister vibe that promished debauchery and blood, the chilling atmosphere right before the murderer presented his ghastly works of art, and that is the sole reason I didn't rate it lower. However, a) I figured out the identity of the killer once a certain clue was presented (and I can't fathom how Wadsworth did not see it coming), and b) I can't shake the feeling that the evidence and the whole construction of the crime were chaotic. Instead of elaborately crafting a detailed, thorough murder case, the author prefered to focus on the drama overdose and the (unfounded) conflict of Wadsworth's feelings, and mistakes inevitably happened. For example, Wadsworth was given a note about a secret meeting and went to the randevouz point thinking it came from Cresswell. Didn't she recognize that it wasn't his handwriting? *cue facepalm*
Escaping from Houdini inflicted a devastating blow on my love for this series, it opened a wound that will probably never heal. I fear that the relationship I cherished, and the heroes I rooted for are now tainted, tarnished by the glitter and the silks of the Moonlight Carnival. And that is something I never expected.