Wednesday, January 2, 2019

ARC Review: The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland

The Hangman's Secret
Author: Laura Joh Rowland
Series: Victorian Mysteries
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (January 8, 2019)

Description: From award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland, a story about the darkness that lurks within and the deadly secrets that beg to be revealed.

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?

My Thoughts: Sarah, Hugh and Mick get their next case when they are called to a gory crime scene. A man - Harry Warbrick - is found who was decapitated after hanging. Sarah, Hugh, and Mick are quick to see that it was a murder. Their boss Sir Gerald tasks them with solving the crime which puts a new, hot-shot reporter's nose out of joint and doesn't endear them to the police department either. It especially causes trouble with Sarah's boyfriend PC Barrett and his boss Inspector Reid who already carries a grudge against them.

The case gets complicated when they learn that the victim was the hangman who executed Amelia Carlisle, the baby-butcher, who murdered hundreds of infants left in her care. The gang is sure that Warbrick's death had something to do with that hanging but happenings at hangings are covered under the Official Secrets act and they can't get anyone to talk.

This story was filled with twists and turns. All of the lead characters' romances were under pressure. Sarah and her police officer boyfriend are stressed because they are working as rivals on solving the crime. Hugh's relationship with Sir Gerald's son is not only stressful but also illegal according to English law. Mick's crush on an older actress is tested when she becomes the lover of one of the prime suspects in their case.

Sarah is also busy trying to find the father who abandoned her mother and her 20 years earlier when he was accused of raping and killing a young neighbor girl. Inspector Reid is determined to bring the whole case back into prominence to get his revenge on Sarah because she's a better detective than he is. In Sarah's quest to find her father, she learns some things about her parents' past which explains why her mother treated her the way she did.

This was an engaging mystery with a great setting and strong characters.

Favorite Quote:
"That's why his pub is called The Ropemaker's Daughter," Hugh says. "It's a polite name for the gallows."

It's said that when a man is hanged, he marries the ropemaker's daughter. I imagine hands that have tied nooses pouring me a drink, and I shiver. "Why was Mr Warbrick running a pub?" I call.

"Hangings pay ten pounds apiece," says a woman outside. "Not enough to live on."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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