Audiobook Review: ‘Escaping from Houdini’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The third in Kerri Maniscalco’s Victorian macabre mystery series, ‘Escaping from Houdini’ is set on the Etruria, a cruise ship travelling from London to New York in 1899 with Audrey Rose Wadsworth, her beau Thomas Cresswell, and Uncle Jonathan Wadsworth aboard.

A series of gruesome murders present this Victorian forensic science team with a series of challenges and mysteries that must be solved before arriving at their destination. 

The story is intricate and complex, dark and dangerous, and completely captivating. Themes of distraction, illusion and deception interweave like a macabre carnival dance. The personal consequences and implications for Audrey Rose, Thomas, and other passengers on the ship are compelling, keeping the audience engaged both mentally and emotionally in the drama as it unfolds. 

Nicola Barber’s narration is expressive, fluent and most enjoyable. Barber has a definite gift for characterisation and drama  that makes her storytelling lively and most enjoyable.  

An excellent audiobook experience, ‘Escapting From Houdini’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Available as a novel or audiobook

Book Review: ‘Yardley: An Unconventional Love Story’ by Lucretia Stanhope

Part of Stanhope’s ‘Elemental Witch Trials’ series, this novella tells the back story of Yardley, a minor but mysterious character in the other books. 

It is interesting to gain insight into the nature and qualities of a character who has hovered on the periphery of the story so far, and to see how the connection between Yardley and Sebastian was first established. I was surprised by the appearance of one of the other minor characters from the series in this book, as it was a connection I had not expected.

Testament to the author’s creativity and talent is the fact that even after reading multiple novels in this series, I can still be completely surprised by a cleverly crafted connection or plot twist. 

This was an enjoyable read, easily finished in under two hours. 

‘Yardley’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Blood’ by Wilkie Martin

The first book in Wilkie Martin’s ‘Inspector Hobbes’ mystery series, this is a highly original contribution to the genre. It is at different times suspenseful, macabre, darkly humorous, and quirky, while maintaining a well-developed and interesting mystery storyline. 

The cast of characters is delightful, made up of mismatched and very different personalities that one might not expect to get along with one another at all, and yet they are oddly complementary. In that sense, there is much in this book that challenges the ways in which people often perceive others based on looks, occupation or social status.  Inspector Hobbes is an enigma: beneath the intimidating exterior and generally gruff presentation lies a good heart and a very literal sense of humour. Still, he is clearly not your everyday local police inspector, and the questions about his past and his otherworldly nature are both puzzling and captivating. That many of these questions remain unanswered is a point of continued intrigue that holds strong appeal for the natural curiosity that is common among readers of mystery novels. 

Similarly, Mrs Goodfellow is both kind and terrifying at the same time, providing yet another contrast to Andy, whose trademark quality is his mediocrity: he wants to be ‘more’ than he is but never quite manages it. It is his profound sense of disappointment in his unrealised dreams and his helplessness when the events of life conspire against him that make him relatable to readers and have them silently hoping for better things for him. When he falls in with Hobbes and discovers life beyond his less-than-stellar career in journalism, the unlikely friendship between the two provides a frequent source of both amusement and fascination.

The oddities of the characters and the macabre elements of the story add further layers of mystery and curiosity to the story, which is well-developed and proceeds at a good pace. Unlike some other mysteries, there is nothing predictable or formulaic about this book. 

A most enjoyable dark urban fantasy mystery story, Inspector Hobbes and the Blood has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Audiobook Review: ‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The sequel to ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’, this is equally gripping and dramatic historical fiction set in Romania, with the majority of the story taking place at the school of forensic medicine that is housed in the castle that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler. 

The book blends history, folklore, horror and forensic mystery genres in a uniquely twisting tale in which Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell once again seek to solve a series of mysterious deaths.

The action is well paced, heightened by plenty of suspense and intrigue. There are plenty of mysterious characters and viable suspects, and the story is so well constructed that the truth almost imperceptible until it is revealed. 

The narration by Nicola Barber is excellent, and gives a great deal of listening pleasure. 

‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy of the audiobook or novel here

Book Review: ‘These Savage Bones’ by Kaitlin Hillerich

The problem with committing to a relentless quest for truth and justice is that sometimes you get exactly what you wanted. 

When the ssudden, tragic loss of her beloved uncle unleashes a chain of events in Esperanza’s life that she could never have foreseen, she is confronted by a web of lies that challenges everything she thinks she knows. 

Esperanza is smart, fiercely independent, and headstrong, a young woman way ahead of her time and society in Mexico, 1875. Her spirit and loyalty are admirable, yet they can also be seen to cloud her judgement and cause her to overlook things in her life which she has always taken at face value. 

This story leaves the reader considering not only the unintended consequences of the characters’ actions, but also the difficulty of what to do with the calaveras that tumble fromthe family closet once the door is opened. 

A blend of mystery, historical fiction, and a bit of romance, ‘These Savage Bones’ is an interesting and thought-provoking tale that can be enjoyed in a couple of hours. 

This book has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Fast Four: Horror Book Recommendations

If horror is your favourite genre, don’t miss these four fear-inducing reads!

Of Nightmare Realities
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C29MD48

The Silver Feather
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0762QLL9D/

Never Again 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077X4VZ9N/

Lac Du Mort and Other Stories 
https://www.amazon.com/Lac-Du-Mort-Other-Stories-ebook/dp/B07G6ZT3NL/

Audiobook Review: ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The identity of Jack the Ripper remains one of the biggest mysteries in the history of both Victorian England, and of the murky world of serial killers.

Maniscalco takes that mystery, envelopes it in the life and times of a fictional would-be forensic scientist, shrouds it with London fog, and hides it in a dark place where nobody thinks or dares to look.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ is a beautifully written blend of mystery, macabre horror and historical fiction that keeps the audience completely rivered as the story unfolds. Suspense builds from the time of the discovery of the first victim right up to the climax and conclusion.

Available on Kobo and Audible.

The cast of characters is varied and complex, each with secrets and personal motivations that intrigue both the reader and one another. The way in which the author drops hints and suggestions is quite tantalising, adding another layer of mystery to the characters and their actions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The narration was fluent and well paced, and a pleasure to listen to.

I definitely plan to indulge in the sequel very soon.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.