**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
by Laura Joh Rowland
(3.88 stars – Goodreads rating)
Expected Publication: January 8, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle Edition
When we’re confronted with a mystery, we feel compelled to solve it, even if it’s none of our business.
Was there ever a kinder, gentler time? You would want to think so. I know I read a lot of fiction, but I’d like to believe that an age actually existed where people were more respectful, more polite, and they valued each other.
After reading this book, it made me doubt that such a time ever existed. So many bad guys (and gals), and all of them mean, nasty, and physically violent – especially against the main character, who is a woman! Those instances left a bad taste in my mouth. But that is not an overall reflection on this book, which I enjoyed reading and felt was a suspenseful, engaging mystery!
I’m interested to hear that a hangman has met the same end that he inflicted on others. It’s as if his past has caught up with him, and fate has exacted justice.
Harry Warbrick, a London hangman, is found hanged in his own pub – hanged and decapitated. Sarah Bain and her friends are called upon to photograph the scene for the Daily World newspaper, but is it a suicide or murder?
Soon it’s the paper vs. the police in a spiteful contest to see who can solve the case first. Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick have previously solved two other dangerous cases, but this could be the one that could finally do them in. Plus, Sarah’s relationship with officer Thomas Barrett is also on the line and Sarah isn’t sure if their love can outlast another case.
With a laundry list of possible suspects, Sarah & Co have their hands full solving the mystery of the hanged hangman while trying to stay alive while the murderer covers his/her tracks.
But I thrill at the prospect of a new crime to solve, and all my life I’ve been attracted to danger. Fear makes me feel alive. It’s a quirk of my nature.
The Hangman’s Secret is full of action and suspense. Its characters are loyal to each other, but I found them to be a bit cookie-cutter. I enjoyed the unique friendship between Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick, but the three of them had so many antagonists – perhaps a few too many for my taste.
You know how you feel when the main character has a few too many enemies and not enough allies? That’s how I felt while reading this book. Enemies to the left and right; and not just regular “bad guys” either – disrespectful, vindictive, violent, spiteful buggers.
But the pacing was good and the setting of the mystery was enough to keep me entertained. There were also enough suspects and distractions to delay the actual culprit-reveal in a satisfying way. I do wish that Sarah was a bit more assertive. Maybe then she wouldn’t get pushed around (literally and figuratively) as much as she does.
Four stars for this Victorian historical mystery!
About the Author:
Laura Joh Rowland is a bestselling author of historical mystery novels. Her newest series stars Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer in Victorian London. The latest book is A Mortal Likeness. Laura’s previous series, which is set in medieval Japan and features samurai detective Sano Ichiro, has been published in 21 countries, been nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, won RT Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award, and been included in The Wall Street Journal’s list of the five best historical mystery novels. Laura has also written a historical suspense series about Charlotte Bronte, the famous Victorian author.
Laura holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She is a former aerospace scientist, a painter, and a cartoonist. She lives in New York City with her husband Marty.