Wednesday, January 5, 2022

ARC Review: Garden of Sins by Laura Joh Rowland

Garden of Sins

Laura Joh Rowland
Series: A Victorian Mystery (Book 6)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (January 11, 2022)

Description: Award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland is back with the sixth in her critically acclaimed Victorian Mystery series in which Sarah must search for the killer of a woman she found murdered on a train all the while waiting for the verdict of her father's trial for heinous crimes committed two decades earlier.

London, November 1890. Crime scene photographer Sarah Bain Barrett faces a perfect storm of events. She and her husband Detective Sergeant Barrett are riding on a train that crashes. While rescuing other passengers, they find a woman who's been strangled to death. Their search for her identity and her killer lead them to Cremorne Gardens, a seedy riverside pleasure park that's a combination carnival, theater, freak show, and museum of oddities. It's among the most challenging cases that Sarah, Barrett, and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O'Reilly have ever undertaken. The suspects include a dwarf, a female acrobat, and a member of the Royal Family. Due to the royal connection, the police commissioner declares the case top-secret. Sarah and company must investigate on the quiet, keeping the suspects, the press, and the public in the dark. That's easier said than done. The investigation is complicated by the injury Hugh sustained during their last case, Mick's romance with a woman who has psychic powers, and Barrett's old flame.

Meanwhile, Sarah's father Benjamin Bain goes on trial for a rape and murder that happened more than two decades ago. The victim was a teenage girl named Ellen Casey. Is Benjamin Bain as innocent as he claims? Sarah has serious doubts. The trial is the scandal of the year, a media blitz. The outcome--and the truth about the murder on the train--are beyond Sarah's wildest imaginings. What dangerous secrets are hidden behind the tawdry glamor of Cremorne Gardens? Is Benjamin Bain wrongly accused, or a guilty sinner who deserves to be hanged?

My Thoughts: This is the sixth book in this series and it is finally time for the murder trial of Benjamon Bain. Sarah's father had been on the run for twenty-four years until Sarah tracked him down and a bitter enemy of hers - Inspector Reid - arrests him more to get at Sarah than to serve justice. 

Sarah and her husband Barrett are trying to adjust to marriage but Sarah's trust issues and an old girlfriend of Barrett's are almost enough to ruin the marriage before it can really take hold. When Sarah and Barrett stumble onto the corpse of a woman after they have survived a train crash, they have a new case to solve. The woman was murdered and their first clues are found in some images on her Kodak camera. 

Those images lead Sarah and Barrett to the Cremorne Gardens which Sarah remembers from a pleasant outing with her father when she was a child. Now, the Gardens have fallen into disrepair and are gradually being repaired by former circus performers including a dwarf who sees himself as a Shakespearean actor, a tattooed man, and a woman who was a former acrobat. 

But there are deep dark secrets hidden in the depths of Cremorne Gardens which include murders and the possible involvement of a member of British Royalty. Barrett and Sarah are sworn to secrecy in their investigations in order to preserve the reputation of the Royal Family. 

This was an engaging story firmly set in the Victoria Era. The characters are well-rounded and intriguing people. The plot is nicely twisty as the cases that are being investigated all begin to have some connections to each other. Fans of rather dark historical mysteries with complex characters will enjoy this series. 

Favorite Quote:
Trust, or lack thereof, has been a thorn in our relationship. We have pasts about which we've been less than frank with each other. Even now, not all my cards are on the table, and I don't know that his are either. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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