Thursday, January 4, 2018

ARC Review: A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland

A Mortal Likeness
Author: Laura Joh Rowland
Series: Victorian Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (January 9, 2018)

Description: A photographer in 1889 London, Miss Sarah Bain runs a private detective agency with her friends, Lord Hugh Staunton and former street urchin Mick O’Reilly. Their sole credential is that they solved the Jack the Ripper case, a secret they can never tell because they did it outside the boundaries of the law. Their new big case arises when a wealthy banker, Sir Gerald Mariner, posts a handsome reward for finding his missing infant. All of London joins in the search. But Sarah has an advantage―a photograph she took during a routine surveillance job, which unexpectedly reveals a clue about the kidnapping.

After Sir Gerald hires Sarah, Hugh, and Mick to find his son, they move into his opulent mansion and discover a photograph of baby Robin. It eerily resembles postmortem photographs taken of deceased children posed to look as if they’re alive. Was the kidnapping real, or a cover-up for a murder? Is the perpetrator a stranger, or someone inside the troubled Mariner family? The case hits close to home for Sarah as it intertwines with her search for her father, who disappeared after he became the prime suspect in a murder twenty-three years ago. She finds herself on the wrong side of the law, which threatens her budding romance with Police Constable Barrett. But Sarah must uncover the truth about Robin’s kidnapping, and her own family, before her past catches up to her in A Mortal Likeness, the gripping follow-up to award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland’s The Ripper’s Shadow.

My Thoughts: Photographer Sarah Bain and disgraced Lord Hugh Staunton have formed an investigations agency. They have experience because they solved the Jack the Ripper case in THE RIPPER'S SHADOW. Unfortunately their methods require them to keep their success a secret. They are struggling to find clients and build their reputation because Hugh's family has only given him a year's worth of allowance and then they are on their own. While they are trying to get evidence on an adulterer, the big case in town is the kidnapping of baby Robin Mariner, the son of the very wealthy and influential Sir Gerald Mariner.

An introduction from Hugh's father leads to Sir Gerald hiring them to investigate the kidnapping. Sir Gerald makes them sign a non-disclosure agreement and then brings them to his home to investigate the residents. Sir Gerald believes the kidnapping was an inside job. They find a wide variety of suspects when they arrive. Evidence in the last photo of the mother and child lead Sarah to believe that there was something wrong with Robin. She even suspects that the photo might show an already dead child since taking that sort of photo was a thing in Victorian times. They wonder if Sir Gerald's wife Lady Alexandra might have done away with the defective infant. Or perhaps Sir Gerald's older son Tristan did away with him since his father had made Robin his heir rather than himself. Then there is Sir Gerald's teenage daughter Olivia who seems to have been jealous of the baby who she feels stole her father's affections.

Thrown into the mix of suspects is Lady Alexandra's sister and the psychic she would like to run away with. Then there is John Pierce who is Sir Gerald's chief aide but who resents him for stealing Lady Alexandra from him. Or maybe Sir Gerald himself had something to do with his child's kidnapping.

All the tangled relationships Sarah, Hugh and their young assistant Mick discover bring up issues for each of the detectives. Sarah has a mystery in her own past having to do with her father who disappeared when she was nine. Police reports she was recently given by her new love interest Barrett seem to lead to the fact that he was a rapist and murderer and fled to avoid the law. One of the photos she took while trailing the suspected adulterer may be a photo of her father. She has very mixed feeling about looking for the father she still loves. Meanwhile Hugh has been disowned, disgraced, and lost his position in society since he has been outed as a homosexual but he is attracted to Sir Gerald's son Tristan who may or may not return his affection.

This was a nicely twisty mystery will all sorts of secrets revealed. It had a nicely developed historical setting. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this new adventure for Sarah and Sir Hugh.

Favorite Quote:
I'm just as eager to think that Sir Gerald is on the level as Hugh is to think the same of Tristan, and nothing I've said has changed Mick's mind about Lady Alexandra. That all three of us are unfortunately lacking in objectivity bodes ill for our investigation.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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