“Her past caught up with her, but she only had one life to lose on the gallows.”
Intrepid photographer Sarah Bain and her motley crew of friends are back to hunt criminals in the dark, seedy underbelly of Victorian London, but little do they know, the darkness may lurk closer than they first divined.
Photographer Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and sometime street urchin Mick O’Reilly are private detectives with a new gig—photographing crime scenes for London’s Daily World newspaper. The Daily World is the latest business venture of their sole client, Sir Gerald Mariner, a fabulously wealthy and powerful banker.
One cold, snowy January morning, Sarah, Hugh, and Mick are summoned to the goriest crime scene they’ve ever encountered. A pub owner named Harry Warbrick has been found hanged and decapitated amid evidence of foul play. His murder becomes a sensation because he was England’s top hangman and he’s met the same fate that he inflicted on hundreds of criminals.
Sir Gerald announces that the Daily World—meaning Sarah and her friends—will investigate and solve Harry Warbrick’s murder before the police do. The contest pits Sarah against the man she loves, Police Constable Barrett. She and her friends discover a connection between Harry Warbrick’s murder and the most notorious criminal he ever executed—Amelia Carlisle, the “Baby-Butcher,” who murdered hundreds of infants placed in her care.
Something happened at Amelia’s execution. The Official Secrets Act forbids the seven witnesses present to divulge any information about it. But Harry had a bad habit of leaking tips to the press. Sarah and her friends suspect that one of the other witnesses killed Harry to prevent him from revealing a secret related to the execution. What is the secret, and who hanged the hangman? (Goodreads)
“Sometimes, all the justice in the world isn’t enough. Sometimes the hunger never goes away.”
I love the Victorian era setting. It may even be my new favorite in historical fiction. The author did an awesome job with her worldbuilding. I was thoroughly transported to this industrial community with progress and dirt commingling everywhere. I can smell the smoke, inhale the dust, got blinded with the flashes of the camera’s bulb, and gagged at the various forms of stench and morbidity. I didn’t know that hanging was such a fascinating topic. I learned so much about it through reading this morbid and fun mystery.
“I thrill at the prospect of a new crime to solve, and all my life I’ve been attracted to danger.”
Needless to say, I was hooked right from the start. This novel surprised me at just how good it is. I was kind of hesitant at first when I realized it’s the third book in a series, but the author’s skillfull writing made sure I’m all caught up. I personally did not like all the exposition—sometimes it can be glaring and repetitive for me, but I do know it can help with other’s reading experience. The plot twists are still so satisfying and totally unexpected.
“If I have to suffer, it’s better to do it among friends.”
I really loved Sarah’s team. They don’t plan ahead with their adventures. I’m always worried something bad would happen and unfortunately I’m often right. I admire their courage and passion despite the risks they are facing. Even though they sometimes use questionable means in their investigative process, their hearts are in the right place. I am now thinking of reading the first two books just to know more about how their unique friendship formed. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical crime/mystery fiction. Truly unputdownable!
Big thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for giving me a copy of this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
About the Author
Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.
The Hangman’s Secret (Victorian Mystery #3) by Laura Joh Rowland
Published January 8th 2019 by Crooked Lane Books
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